In November 2021, iProbono India began its operations in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The following few months were crucial for us to comprehend the ground-level challenges faced by the lawyers and litigants in Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) cases. Issues such as rights of victims in a trial, victim compensation, and the lack of child-friendly infrastructure in courts frequently arose in our discussions. In response, we organised a seminar for lawyers to discuss the challenges they face as well as the problems within the justice delivery system.
On 4 September 2022, iProbono in collaboration with our partner organisation Aasra Foundation, Jaipur conducted a seminar on ‘Representing Children in POCSO Cases’ for over 80 lawyers from the Jaipur Bar. We were joined by judges and advocates of the Jaipur High Court and district courts.
Hon’ble Justice Banwari Lal Sharma (Rajasthan High Court) spoke about the history and evolution of the POCSO Act in detail and went through its provisions. He cited landmark judgments on POCSO, including one of iProbono’s cases in which the Delhi High Court ruled that joint trial for two or more separate incidents is permissible in POCSO offences. He also discussed ‘digital penetration,’ helping the young lawyers understand that child sexual abuse is not limited to penetration through the private parts of the offender.
Sh Ravikant Soni (Member, Rajasthan Legal Service Authority, (RSLSA) Civil Judge) delved into details of the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) Victim Compensation Scheme and explained the grounds against which the quantum of compensation may be decided by the court. He explained the procedure of filing an application for seeking compensation before the court or the concerned District or State Legal Services Authority.
Prof (Dr) Vijaylaxmi Sharma (Dean, Faculty of Law, Manipal University, Jaipur) shed light on the societal factors contributing to the rise in sexual offences against children. She emphasised the significant role of law schools and universities in training students to deal with issues that arise during trials by providing them with practical knowledge and relevant exposure beyond textbooks. She also discussed the challenges that can arise in cases of consensual sexual relationships between two minors.
Adv Anil Upman (Rajasthan High Court) highlighted the importance of an effective trial as well as the ongoing trend of delivering “speedy justice” within a span of 10 days. He cited the benefits and drawbacks of the ‘Presumption of Offence’ under the POCSO Act. He also discussed how important it is to protect the rights of the accused to ensure a fair trial.
LD Kiradu (Retd POCSO Judge, Jaipur) shared his experience of being the presiding officer in POCSO cases in Jaipur. He discussed a few cases from his tenure and gave lawyers suggestions on how to provide better representation.
The speakers were able to give the lawyers an insight into dealing with POCSO cases and navigating the system while keeping the best interest of the child as their top priority. Through such seminars, iProbono strives to bring the bar and bench together to discuss the challenges in child rights litigation and work towards practical solutions.