The Kerala High Court recently mooted the possibility of setting up child-friendly rooms in all Family Courts which were noticed to be functioning with very minimal facilities.
A Division Bench of Justices A Muhamed Mustaque and CS Dias opined that the lack of adequate infrastructure and consequent over-crowding in court premises may cement a negative view of the justice delivery system in the minds of children who are forced to spend time there.
“It is a known matter that most of the Family Courts are functioning in leased premises without adequate infrastructure and facilities. There is not even a waiting room for the children who are brought to the Courts for providing access, visitation rights and interim custody to their parents. In a few Family Courts, the children and the parties are seen standing in jam-packed corridors and even on the roads for the whole day. The congested Courts and the over-crowded premises, in fact, stares at the young minds, who develop negative notions regarding the justice delivery system in the Country”, the Court said.
The Court noted that in POCSO courts (for trying cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) there are dedicated child-friendly areas.
Keeping that in mind, the bench called for a report from the Registrar (District Judiciary) about the possibility of having dedicated child-friendly rooms in all Family Courts.
“In such circumstances, we deem it appropriate to call for a report from the Registrar (District Judiciary) as to the number of POCSO Courts functioning in the near vicinity of the Family Courts in the State and to explore the possibility of dedicating a separate room in all the Family Courts,with a child friendly atmosphere somewhat akin to the POCSO Courts, to facilitate the handing over of the children, and for the parents to exercise their interim custody and visitation rights”, the order stated.
The Court was considering a batch of original petitions (family court) when advocate R Leela, who practices frequently before Family Courts in the state, pointed out the “pathetic condition” prevailing at such courts.
Another issue that was brought to the notice of the Court was that Family Courts seemed to be not following the directions issued by the High Court in Shiju Joy v Nisha , regarding the speedy disposal of the Interlocutory Applications in a time bound manner.
Therefore, the Court also directed the Registrar (District Judiciary) to inform all the Presiding Officers of the Family Courts to strictly follow the directions issued by the High Court, and to dispose of the Interlocutory Applications filed in all cases in a time bound manner.
The matter will be taken up for consideration next on July 29.
Perhaps coincidentally, on the day that the High Court passed the instant order, the first fully child-friendly POCSO Court was inaugurated in the Ernakulam District Court Complex.
The newly refurbished POCSO court has many features, such as play areas and, separate toilets and dining facilities to provide a more informal setting for child survivors to comfortably and safely give evidence.