The year 2012 saw the Goa police registering 11 cases under the Goa Children’s Act, in South Goa district, while the number of detentions was 9. The previous year, 4 cases had been recorded under the Act, in the same district, with detention taking place in all of these cases.
Although there has been an increase in the number of cases registered under the Goa Children’s Act, during the year 2012, as compared to the year 2011, the Children’s Court has dismally failed to handle the cases with the speed proportional to the rise in the crimes against the children.
The absence of a full-time judge and poor infrastructure form the two main reasons for the slow functioning of the Children’s Court in the state. This has resulted in high pendency of cases before this court – a total of 211 cases – including the murder cases such as Mandar Surlekar case and Scarlett Keeling case. Presently, 120 cases of molestation, 80 cases of rape and five cases of murder, besides at least five cases of kidnapping are awaiting their fate before the Children’s Court. Most of these cases are four or more years old.
The Children’s Court, constituted in the year 2003 under the Goa Children’s Act, is the only one of its kind in the country, set up to try criminal offences against children. The situation is scary, especially with majority of the cases before the court constituting sexual assaults against children, including rape offences.
Presently, the principal district and special judge, Ms Justice Anuja Prabhudesai, who also presides over the Children’s Court is in charge of as many as six courts including courts linked to the National Investigation Agency, Central Bureau of Investigation, and traffic related Appellate Court. This leaves the judge with little time for the Children’s Court.
In addition, the location of the Children’s Court in North Goa creates lot of logistical inconvenience for people from South Goa, who need to attend the hearings of their cases. The increasing demand for setting up one more Children’s Court in South Goa is therefore more than justified.
Incidentally, the Children’s Court is held every Monday, and the particular day, on an average, witnesses around 60 cases fixed for hearing, out of which a maximum of three to four hearings take place. And then the cases pertaining to those accused under police or judicial custody are taken up for hearing on preferential basis. Furthermore, the infrastructure for the Children’s Court located at the Shram Shakti Bhavan, Patto, is not adequate, including its insufficient staff. Presently, there is a stenographer, a head clerk and a peon in the service of this court, with the head clerk currently proceeding on leave. A request sent to the department of women and child development for filling up the vacant posts remains yet to be fulfilled.
And finally, if some cases are lucky enough to be heard and decided, the conviction rate is not impressive; one of the reasons for the same being a delay in the submission of forensic reports by the police to the court. Therefore, even though the detection rate of Goa police in rape cases is 92 per cent, the conviction rate is between 20 and 52 per cent.
Statistics show that altogether 51 rape cases were reported in Goa in the year 2012, out of which 28 cases were reported in South Goa alone, including the rape and murder of a 4-year-old girl from Kurla, Mumbai, on a vacation in Goa at her grandparents place in Quepem, by a mason from Begusarai, Bihar. The rape of a seven-year-old girl student of a popular high school in the port town of Vasco by a stranger, at the very beginning of this year reaffirms the rising graph of cases of child abuse in Goa. [NT]