child rape
More than 2.43 lakh cases under POCSO Act were pending in fast-track special courts as on January 31, says an NGO, underlining the menace of child marriages too | Representative photo

2.43 lakh POCSO cases pending across India; conviction rate 3%: Report

According to NGO India Child Protection Fund, it will take at least nine years to clear the backlog even if no new cases are added to the list

Over 2.43 lakh cases under the POCSO Act were pending in fast-track special courts as on January 31, 2023, and it will take at least nine years to clear the backlog even if no new cases are added.

This is the finding of a research paper published by an NGO which said that in 2022, the number of such cases which led to conviction remained a mere 3 per cent nationally.

The research paper, Justice Awaits: An Analysis of the Efficacy of Justice Delivery Mechanisms in Cases of Child Sexual Abuse in India, was released by the India Child Protection Fund (ICPF).

It said that even if no new cases are added to the list, India will need at least nine years to clear this backlog.

In some states like Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar, it could take more than 25 years to bring the pending cases to closure.

The findings of the paper cast a huge question mark on the efficacy of the country's judicial system, despite the central government's 2019 decision to set up fast-track special courts to provide justice to child sexual abuse victims.

The government has also pumped in crores of rupees every year to ensure justice for every child.

Huge backlog

The paper further states that given the present scenario, while Arunachal Pradesh would take 30 years to complete the trials of cases pending under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act as of January 2023.

Delhi will take 27 years, West Bengal 25, Meghalaya 21, Bihar 26, and Uttar Pradesh 22 years to clear the pile-up.

The fast-track courts, set up in 2019, were supposed to deliver the legal mandate for the completion of trial of such cases within one year. Yet of the total 2,68,038 cases that were under trial, only 8,909 cases resulted in conviction.

The central government recently approved the continuation of fast track special courts (FTSC) as a centrally sponsored scheme till 2026 with a budgetary allocation of more than Rs 1,900 crore.

The study highlights that each FTSC on an average disposes a mere 28 cases each, which means the expenditure in one conviction is around Rs 9 lakh.

The report is based on data from the ministries of law and justice as well as women and child development and the National Crime Records Bureau.

"Each FTSC was expected to dispose of 41-42 cases in a quarter and at least 165 in a year. The data suggests that FTSCs are unable to achieve the set targets even after three years of the launch of the scheme," the paper stated.

Child marriage or rape?

Citing a Supreme Court ruling, the report said that child marriage was child rape. As per the Census of 2011, 4,442 minor girls were married daily — which means every minute three children were pushed into child marriage.

However, only three child marriages are reported every day, as per the latest National Crime Records Bureau data.

ICPF founder Bhuwan Ribhu said, "The spirit of law needs to be translated into justice for every child. There can be no legal deterrence when mere 3 per cent of the people accused of sexual offences against children are convicted."

Ribhu called for “time-bound legal process including trial in the lower courts and subsequent appeals in the high courts and the Supreme Court".

He also recommended that all FTSCs should be operational and there should be a robust framework to monitor their output.

(With agency inputs)

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