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A Special Court for Children

April 2014
In India, courtrooms were not designed to accommodate child victims or child witnesses. The reality is that the functioning of the criminal justice system, the oppressive court environment, the complicated legal procedures and long waiting hours all take their toll on children. The atmosphere of the court is confusing and intimidating, with limited or no protection for victims. Even basic necessities such as food, water and seating arrangements for children and families or their guardians are not catered to in most instances. As a result, if children are victims of sexual offences, often-additional trauma ensues. Indias first and perhaps only child-friendly courtroom was inaugurated in Delhi in September 2012. Amidst promulgation of the new law on Protection of Children against Sexual Offences, this courtroom is being projected as a benchmark and best practice in child protection. Team Aarambh recently visited the courtroom, located in the Karkadooma court complex in New Delhi. Here, the basic needs of the victims and their families are catered to, including snacks, water and toilet facilities. More importantly, there is a thorough thought behind the infrastructure, which is geared towards minimizing trauma for children.

What we witnessed is certainly a strong step in the direction of protecting children. Some features stood out and could be easily replicated across courts in India. Among these were a child-friendly waiting space, separate entrances and seating for the accused & victims, a one-way mirror in the area where the accused sits and a separate witness room with direct video link to the courtroom.

needs (snacks, water, toilet facilities) of the victims and families are catered to. There is a thorough thought behind the infrastructure that is geared towards minimizing the trauma for children.

Basic

We saw the court in action: A child victim was seated in a separate room with a support person (a woman lawyer appointed by the court). The courtroom held all those concerned with this particular case - except the victim and the support person, who were seen and heard via video link. The victim did not hear any questions or comments made in the courtroom, thus protecting her from any traumatic or aggressive questions. Indeed, all questions were asked of the support person, who heard them through via headphones. The victims answers were heard in the courtroom through a microphone. The court proceedings were clearly less difficult for the victim than is the norm in India. Both in terms of infrastructure and procedure, the Delhi court is benchmark that needs to be studied, replicated and strengthened. It places a greater emphasis on child friendliness and is the first step in the right direction. In our effort to advocate for a child friendly court in Mumbai, with FACSE (Forum Against Child Sexual Exploitation) and other child rights groups, we drafted and submitted the guidelines on infrastructure for special courts to the Government of Maharashtra. We must advocate for similar special courtrooms across the every district in India for protection of all child victims.

Vivamus porta est sed est.

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AARAMBH AGAINST CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION An initiative of Prerana & The ADM Capital Foundation
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