The Supreme Court on Monday sought data on the status of child rape cases from various states after expressing concern on their increasing numbers and the delay in investigations, Hindustan Times reported. The top court had itself initiated a public interest litigation after statistics showed that 24,000 cases had been reported in the first half of 2019.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi noted that it was regrettable that in Delhi, out of the 172 cases listed for trial since January, only two cases had been disposed of till date. “If this is the situation in the national Capital, one can imagine about the overall position in the rest of the country,” Gogoi said.

The chief justice said that the bench had only been able to look at figures between January 1 and July 15 this year and not of the previous years since the enactment of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Senior advocate V Giri was directed to collect the information from various High Courts.

This data would include the number of courts that were designated as special courts under the POCSO Act, the number of special public prosecutors appointed under the Act, and the number of child rape cases for which first information reports have been registered, among other things, Bar and Bench reported. The top court is also working on a mechanism to ensure swift disposal of the cases.

Giri also stressed on the need for separate courts for POCSO and child rape cases as judges and public prosecutors require special training to deal with the cases. He further said that the Act mandated that the trials are completed in two months, but no state had reported compliance with the said deadline, The Times of India reported.

Justice Deepak Gupta noted that there were a limited number of forensic laboratories, which also hampered speedy investigations. “Moreover, the designated POCSO courts are in the same court complex which decides criminal and civil cases,” he added. “The idea was to provide a less stressful atmosphere to abused children and their parents. The special POCSO courts must be set up at a place away from court complexes.”

The bench asked Giri to submit a detailed report on swifter investigation process and trials of child rape cases. The government’s counsel Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta also assured assistance to the court, The Hindu reported.

Last week, the bench had instructed the court registry to register the case as a writ petition with the title “In-re Alarming Rise in The Number of Reported Child Rape Incidents.” The court’s report said that 24,212 first information reports had been filed in the country from January 1 to June 30. Out of these cases, 11,981 were still being investigated while chargesheets had been filed in 12,231 cases. Trials have begun for only 6,449 cases and judgments have been passed in 911 cases – about 4% of the total.