New Delhi, Dec 1 : The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed West Bengal, Assam and Rajasthan to establish the infrastructure for a pilot project to initiate video conferencing (VC) for deposition of children/witnesses in trafficking cases.
The direction was passed by a bench comprising Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Hemant Gupta while hearing a suo moto matter pertaining to the spread of Covid-19 in children protection homes.
Amicus curiae advocate Gaurav Agarwal proposed a pilot project for making the video-conferencing the norm for recording testimonies of child victims of human trafficking in cases of inter-states/inter-city/inter-district trafficking.
Agarwal submitted that he had identified four cases: two are pending in Delhi, one in Bihar and one in Jaipur, as the courts have the VC facility and the remote point is at a reasonable distance from victim’s place of residence.
Justice Rao put out a volley of questions for Agarwal. The bench said: “Who will establish these remote points? Are you expecting the court or state to do it? What about the coordinators at these points? Do you want someone from the judiciary or child commissions?”
Agrawal submitted that an independent coordinator could be appointed from a Child Welfare Committee to look into these issues connected with vulnerability of the child. He added that the deposition would happen before a judge, and there will be a remote point coordinator who is sensitised to the needs of the vulnerable victim. The top court emphasised it is important to ensure that there was no external influence or pressure on children when they deposed through VC.
Agarwal has proposed a three-stage pilot project, which will begin with the assessment of state of infrastructure for conducting VC. He insisted that the trial should be an in-camera trial, with all measures required to make it child friendly.
The top court said it will give directions to Bihar, West Bengal and Assam to implement stage one for infrastructure. The top court also asked the states to provide numbers of children in trafficking cases who are required to depose outside their state as well as the information relating to VC facility one district of their choice.
The top court took note for VC as per amicus suggestions, a waiting area with a restroom to maintain privacy of the children would be required. After a detailed hearing in the matter, the top court scheduled the matter for further hearing in January.
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