Duty of special court to award interim compensation in POCSO cases, says HC

The Delhi High Court has said it is the duty of the special court to award interim compensation to minor victims of sexual assault and the responsibility cannot be delegated to the legal services authority.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru said there was no special scheme for grant of compensation to victims under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and National Legal Services Authority’s (NALSA) scheme for victims of sexual offences was not applicable to POCSO cases.

In such a situation, the NALSA scheme “is required to be considered as a guideline by the special court while awarding compensation to victims under the POCSO Act”, the high court has said.

The observations came on the plea seeking additional interim compensation moved by the mother of two minor girls who had alleged that their father used to physically abuse them and sexually assault them.

Based on their complaint an FIR of molestation under the Indian Penal Code and aggravated sexual assault under section 10 of POCSO Act was lodged. It provides for a maximum punishment of seven years in jail; for molestation, it is two years.

The special court had in September 2018 granted an interim compensation of ₹50,000 to each minor girl under the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme.

However, the mother later moved a plea seeking additional interim compensation which the special court on June 1, 2019, referred to the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) for consideration.

The DSLSA after hearing the victims’ side, passed an order on July 22, 2019 holding that the special court has the power to grant interim compensation.

The minor girls’ mother moved the high court challenging both orders.

The high court, in its judgement of June 15, 2020, upheld the DSLSA order, but set aside the special court’s decision and sent the matter back to it to be considered afresh in accordance with POCSO Rules 2020 and the high court’s observations.

Justice Bakhru said the special court has the jurisdiction to award compensation under the POCSO Act and it was not open to the special judge to delegate the power to DSLSA.

The high court also noted in its judgement that there was no express bar which said special courts can grant interim compensation only once.

It said an application for further interim compensation can be considered by the special court if there are sufficient grounds for the same.

The high court also said that an application for further interim compensation cannot be based on the ground that earlier compensation order was erroneous or inadequate.

“Such an application would be maintainable only if circumstances have subsequently arisen that were not in contemplation at the time when the special court had (first) evaluated the requirement of interim compensation,” the high court said.

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