Delay in trials in sexual abuse cases often leads to re-victimization and ignominy as the trial process itself makes the victim re-live the horrific experience, and in case of children it may lead to further trauma due to their vulnerability, the Bombay High Court has said.

A Single Bench of Justice Revati Mohite Dere, in an order of April 1 that was made available on Friday, said that delay in recording the depositions of the victim would bring back the memories which the child/victim would want to forget, thus adding to the trauma.

The order said," several cases that the child/victim are not examined for years and therefore, it is imperative to give some directions to all Special Courts, with respect to examination of the child/victim in POCSO cases."

Justice Dere said all special courts shall record the evidence of the victim as expeditiously as possible and at the earliest and conclude the recording of evidence of the victim preferably on the same day.

"The courts have to also ensure the victim/child is not called frequently to court, as this would add to their trauma. When the victim is being examined then all child friendly practices must be adopted to ensure he or she feels safe, is comfortable and is not in any way exposed to the accused," the High Court said.

The order was passed by Justice Dere in a bail application filed by an accused, arrested in a POSCO Act case, on the ground that he is HIV positive. The Court rejected the bail plea noting that his medical condition was stable and he was being provided the requisite medical care in jail.

Justice Dere in the order noted that despite expediting the trial in the case, the special court had not examined the evidence of the victim, a 11-year-old girl, till February 2022. The FIR was registered by the victim's mother in February 2019.

The High Court, in its order, noted that while it may not be possible to complete trial within one year from taking cognizance of the case due to the large number of cases under the POCSO Act, but in cases where the victim is young, it is imperative that the judge should record at least the evidence of the victim as expeditiously as possible, lest the minor forgets the incident due to passage of time.

"It is pertinent to note, in cases of sexual assault, the child/victim, suffers not only physical trauma, but even mental and emotional trauma, requiring the child/victim to undergo counselling and at times, even psychiatric help. The endeavor of the counsellor is to help the child/victim tide over the trauma," Justice Dere said.

If the victim is examined after a couple of years, then such a delay would only stand to benefit the accused, as the child/victim, through counselling, is counselled to deal and overcome the emotional trauma and wipe out traumatic memories, thus, making it difficult to recall the incident vividly, the order said.

"Due to passage of time, the child/victim who has undergone the sexual trauma, may not be able to recall the incident vividly, giving an undue advantage to the accused," it added.

Click here to read/download Order

With PTI inputs