An inter-departmental meeting of the Punjab government on Monday decided on a slew of measures to strengthen the investigation and prosecution machinery for handling criminal offences against women and children, including establishment of nine more fast-track courts under the POCSO Act and Sexual Assault Response Teams in all the 27 police districts of the state to deal with cases of sexual attacks on women.
The decisions are in line with recent directives of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for ensuring time-bound investigations in cases of crime against women and children, and improving the prosecution rate in such cases.
At a high-level virtual meeting, Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan directed officials to clear the pendency of cases related to women and children from the period 2016 to 2020 through quality investigations on priority. She also directed the officials to lay down Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to fast-track the investigation of sexual offences against women and children by specifying the roles and responsibilities of all departments with regard to such cases.
Mahajan also ordered the constitution of a State Level Committee, headed by the Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) – Home, to review the monthly progress of pending cases. She directed the Health, Police and Prosecution departments to appoint a nodal officer for better inter-departmental synergy to deal with investigation of criminal cases related to women and child, and also manage the necessary programmes for training of personnel in this regard.
The meeting was attended by Director General of Police (DGP) Punjab Dinkar Gupta, Principal Secretary Social Security and Women & Child Development Raji P Shrivastava, Principal Secretary Health and Family Welfare Hussan Lal and Secretary Home Affairs Arun Sekhri. ADGP Women and Child Affairs Gurpreet Kaur Deo, Director Punjab Police Academy (PPA) Phillaur Anita Punj and Director Prosecution and Litigation Satnam Singh Kaler were also present during the meeting.
The Chief Secretary announced that the state government will also recruit additional Scientific Officers and Forensic Experts to ensure faster disposal of cases pending with Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). She added that the process of approval to provide compensation to the victims will also be eased so that such payments are made without any delay.
She also directed the Home department to expedite the establishment of nine other Fast-Track Courts, for which approval has been granted by the Government, in addition to the three such courts already operational in Ludhiana and Jalandhar. Notably, seven Fast Track Courts dealing with rape cases are also already functional in the state.
Mahajan informed the meeting that to mark the International Women’s Day on March 8, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh will be launching various projects for the welfare of Women and Children.
DGP Punjab Dinkar Gupta told the meeting that the police department plans to set up Sexual Assault Response Teams in all 27 Police Districts to deal with sexual assault cases, besides holding weekly meetings to discuss and monitor progress of all such cases under investigation cases.
Gupta further said that Dedicated Help Desks, already established at all police stations and manned by women for attending to complaints of women, will be functioning from SAANJH Kendras located in close vicinity to the Police Stations. The DGP suggested that some additional district level Special Prosecutors may be appointed to deal with cases related with sexual assault.
The Punjab Police Academy (PPA) Phillaur will organise joint training sessions and individual workshops for various departments, including Police, Health, Prosecution and Forensic Science Laboratory, for better coordination to handle such cases, he said, adding that the first batch of training will commence within three weeks, initially online and later in physical mode too.
For proper utilisation of the Nirbhaya Funds, the Punjab Police will upgrade forensic gadgets, mobiles and IT equipment etc to deal with online cyber offences against women and children, said the DGP.