Lamenting the rampant incidents of crime against children, the Bombay High Court directed the Maharashtra government to probe the reasons behind such crimes and why juveniles were increasingly taking to criminal activities.
A bench of Justices Naresh Patil and G S Kulkarni said the state must take preventive steps to minimise incidents involving juveniles as well as crime against children.
“There was a recent news report of an eight-month-old girl being sexually assaulted. The degree of degradation of one’s way of thinking is such that even an eight-month-old is not spared,” the bench said.
“Why does this happen in a society like ours that has such a rich culture and heritage?” the bench asked.
It also said that schools across the country must compulsorily impart lessons on ethics and morality to students.
“These are the first lessons we need to learn as humans. Science and technology comes after this,” the bench said.
The observations came after the bench was informed by the state government that it had constituted a Special Task Force (STF) to probe crime against children and ensure time-bound trial in such matters.
The bench said while the STF was a good initiative, it was imperative that the state study the reasons of a spike in such crimes.
“Some sort of social and psychological study needs to be done to come up with the reasons. This will allow the police to take preventive steps. We need to understand why children are being increasingly targeted, and also why more and more juveniles are participating in activities that are against the law,” the bench said.
The bench was hearing a suo moto (court taking cognisance of an issue on its own) Public Interest Litigation on constructing child-friendly courts across Maharashtra.
Appearing for the state, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the bench that he had spoken to the authorities at Delhi High Court which has a child-friendly court in its premises.
“We have decided to take Delhi as a model, and construct such court rooms across the courts in the state,” Kumbhakoni said.
In February this year, the apex court had requested chief justices of all high courts to “seriously consider” establishing child-friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts in each district.
At the time, SC had observed, “Inquiries under the JJ Act and trials under other statutes such as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, trials for sexual offences under the Indian Penal Code and other similar laws require to be conducted with a high degree of sensitivity, care and empathy for the victim.
“It is often said that the experience, in our courts, of a juvenile accused of an offence or the victim of a sexual offence is traumatic….
“We need to have some compassion towards them, even juveniles in conflict with law, since they are entitled to the presumption of innocence, and establishing child-friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts is, perhaps, one manner in which the justice delivery system can respond to ease their pain and suffering…” it said.
The Bombay HC then took suo moto cognisance of the issue and began hearing the PIL.