The Bombay High Court directed the Maharashtra government on Monday to set up child-friendly courtrooms in all the judicial premises across the state on a “priority basis”.
A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and M S Karnik directed the state government to ensure that its pilot project to set up three model courtrooms in the city which are child-friendly and also cater to vulnerable witnesses is implemented without further delay.
The directions came after Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who was representing the state, told the bench that while the government had allocated Rs 23 lakh for setting up three such courtrooms in the city, the project had faced some delay in the past months over budget allocations.
“However, now the money has been allocated. There is a meeting later in the day between architects and officials of the Public Works Department following which the design for such courtrooms will be finalised,” he said.
At this, the bench noted that the government must ensure that the pilot project was completed at the earliest so that subsequently, the same model could be extended to all court premises across the state.
“We don’t want anything fancy. The state should just ensure that all basic infrastructure and safety requirements are met at these special courtrooms. Take this up on a priority basis now,” the bench said.
The court was hearing a suo motu (on its own motion) petition following the Supreme Court’s directions to all high courts to consider, among other things, establishing courts which are child-friendly and for vulnerable witnesses in each district.
These courtrooms are an essential requirement under several laws, including the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, to ensure that children or vulnerable witnesses deposing in a courtroom do not feel any fear or apprehension.
In February this year, the Supreme Court had passed a slew of directions for the chief justices of all high courts across the country pertaining to a clutch of laws.
It had asked chief justices to ensure that all provisions under the JJ Act, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, the Prohibition of Child Marriage (POCSO) Act, and provisions under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for trials for sexual offences were implemented in full spirit.
The bench, led by Justice Patil, had accordingly initiated the aforementioned petition on its own and sought the advocate general’s assistance on drawing up a plan to implement the directions.