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PUNE: The Bombay high court has directed the principal district judge and the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) of Pune to ensure that cases of trafficking of minor girls and women are assigned to the sessions judge who can give priority to their trials.

The high court has also directed them to take steps to ensure that there is no delay in magisterial courts committing the proceedings in such cases to the sessions court. It further gave a month’s time to the district judges and CJMs across the state to give their views on a set of proposed guidelines for speedier trials in such cases.

The bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice G S Kulkarni passed a four-page order to this effect on March 19 while hearing a criminal PIL filed by NGO Freedom Firm against the commissioner of Pune police others.

Among other things, the NGO has raised various issues regarding the proceedings under the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act, 1956, and offences under the Indian Penal Code in relation to trafficking of minor girls and women and has proposed certain guidelines for speedier trial of such cases.

The petitioner, represented by lawyer Gayatri Singh, has pointed out that cases remain pending for many years due to reasons like the accused not being traceable. But the victims, many of whom are minors at the time the offence was committed, remain in children’s homes and are not released as the criminal case concerned is pending.

Additional public prosecutor Aruna Pai placed on record a report filed by senior police inspector of the Faraskhana police station, detailing the cases pending in the Pune sessions court. The bench referred to this report and observed, “Many cases are pending since 2007-08. It also appears that in many such cases, which are pending for as long as four to seven years, the accused are not traceable in spite of issuance of non-bailable warrants and proclamations.”

Pai submitted that unnecessary delay occurs on account of the time taken by magisterial courts to commit the cases to the sessions court. She further submitted that often the accused, particularly those charged with trafficking, go absconding after they are released on bail and police also find it difficult to trace the persons who stand sureties for such accused.

As such, the investigating officer should be given an opportunity to verify the existence and antecedents of the sureties before the accused, who face charges of trafficking and running brothels, are released on bail, she said. She suggested stringent conditions for bail in such cases, like the accused being asked to file an affidavit mentioning the names, addresses and other particulars of sureties and giving the investigation officer an opportunity to verify such particulars before granting bail.

Pai submitted that instead of granting bail to the traffickers, the trial court ought to see that such cases are expedited and the trial should preferably be completed in six months.

The bench referred to these submissions while observing that the principal district judge and the CJM should take steps to ensure that there are no delays in the committal proceedings and that the cases be referred to judges who can give priority to trial of such matters.

Need for the directives

* Cases of trafficking of minor girls and women remain pending in courts for years due to factors like the accused not being traceable

* The victims, many of whom minors at the time of registration of offence, languish in children’s home and are not released due to pendency of case

* Accused released on bail go absconding, taking advantage of lenient bail conditions and difficulty in tracing persons who stand sureties for them

* Trials are often delayed due to time taken by magisterial courts to commit the proceedings to the sessions courts

 

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