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Judge for kid-friendly court

- Stress on public awareness about children’s rights
Justice B.P. Katakey addresses the meet in Guwahati on Saturday. Picture by Manash Das

Guwahati, March 22: Justice B.P. Katakey of Gauhati High Court today questioned designating of district and session courts in Assam as special courts for trial of cases related to children instead of having separate infrastructure for a child-friendly atmosphere in courts.

“The objective of setting up children’s court is trial of cases related to children in child-friendly environment and to check exploitation of our children. But if we designate the same criminal courts as special court for trial of such cases, can we say that we will be successful in our objective? Can we expect a child-friendly atmosphere in a normal criminal court? To my mind, no,” Justice Katakey said at a state consultation on Children’s Court and Special Court in Assam here.

The two-day consultation has been organised jointly by National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam, and Unicef. Around 100 district judges, public prosecutors, child protection officers, child welfare committee representatives and NGOs are taking part in the discussions on modalities for children’s courts in Assam.

Assam is the second state after Goa to set up children’s courts, especially for cases related to child rights violations and crimes against children, according to the provisions of the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. The state government had last year issued a notification, designating the court of district and sessions judge in each judicial district as special courts to try offences under the act.

Stressing the need to have exclusive courts for trial of child-related cases, Justice Katakey said: “Many lower courts in our state lack basic facilities like safe drinking water and toilets. More than 2.7 lakh cases are pending and our judicial officers are already overburdened. So can we expect a child-friendly atmosphere there?”

He also emphasised on public awareness about legal provisions to check child rights violations, training of judicial officers and public prosecutors and regular interaction with government, police officials and judicial officers.

Justice Joymalya Bagchi of Calcutta High Court also stressed on child-friendly atmosphere in courts meant for trial of child rights cases.

The commissioner and secretary of Assam social welfare department, H.K. Sharma, said setting up of separate children’s courts in all the districts was not yet feasible. “We are planning to have a separate children’s court in Guwahati first,” he said.