SBA to abstain from appearing in POCSO Judge’s Court

SHILLONG, Aug 5: The Shillong Bar Association (SBA) in its general body meeting held on Thursday has unanimously decided to continue with the abstention from the court of FS Sangma until the demand to remove him from the district is met.
The advocates have been boycotting the court of POCSO judge in Shillong for the past two weeks.
The SBA has also submitted its resolution taken during the general body meeting to the Registrar (Judicial Service), Meghalaya High Court on Friday.
In the letter addressed to the Registrar (Judicial Service) on the resolution which was adopted, the SBA said that the members of the bar association have strongly expressed that the resolution which was adopted on July 28, 2022 taken to abstain from appearing in the court of Sangma due to the inaction of the High Court authority in addressing the said representation, was in the interest of justice and is aimed at maintaining a congenial environment between the Bar and Bench.
Meanwhile, the SBA on August 2 has also submitted a representation to the Registrar General of the Meghalaya High Court regarding the manner of functioning of Sangma. On the attitude of Sangma towards the accused, the SBA said that by his behaviour, it instills fear upon the accused persons that they shall be convicted at any cost If the accused is unable to appear before the court for any reason.
According to the SBA, Special Judge (POCSO) in Shillong at times even goes to the extent of directing that the adjournment petition must be filed by the surety supported by an affidavit.
“Even if the matter be fixed only for the appearance of the accused person or otherwise the witnesses are not available on any particular day, he (Sangma) still makes the accused wait for the whole day. Usually, there is not the slightest effort at convincing the accused persons that they are being given a fair trial,” the SBA said in the representation.
Talking about his attitude towards the counsels, the SBA said that the Special Judge (POCSO) does not grant any consideration to the genuine difficulties faced by the defense counsels and causes all sorts of harassment to them.
It further stated that even the junior advocates assisting the defense counsel, are not permitted to remain present.
“Given the chance, he (Sangma) ensures that only young inexperienced advocates are appointed as the defense counsels. Most of the time the Special Judge (POCSO) makes it very obvious to the defense counsels that they are only perfunctorily being permitted to participate and they would never be successful in defending the accused,” the SBA said.
Referring to the attitude towards the witnesses, the SBA said that he (Sangma) often calls the witness to the chamber before entering the Court ostensibly for guiding them on what they are to say.
“When the prosecution’s witnesses do not speak in favour of the prosecution, the Special Judge (POCSO) persists in repeating the questions in different ways until he is able to extract an answer which is incriminating for the accused persons. If witnesses depose in favour of the accused person, such statements are often not taken on record and the defense counsels are restrained from pursuing or insisting on the matter,” the SBA said.
On the summoning of witnesses, the SBA said that he (Sangma) dictates/directs the prosecution to re-call the witnesses who have been satisfactorily examined, cross-examined and discharged, with the apparent objective of tilting the case in favour of the prosecution.
“Many witnesses are frequently summoned on the same day but, at the end of the day none of them are examined,” the SBA said.
Further, the SBA said that proper cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses is never permitted.
“Male advocates are never permitted to conduct the cross-examination. Questions by the defense counsel are conveyed to the prosecution witnesses by the Special Judge (POCSO) himself and while so doing they are put in a leading manner, even to the official witnesses,” the SBA said.
The defense counsels are hardly given the freedom to properly cross-examine and even when permitted, the Judge himself keeps on interfering, the SBA said adding that if the statement of witnesses is not in favour of the prosecution, the Judge interferes and provides leads to the answers with the objective of favouring the prosecution.
“He (Sangma) keeps the officials of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), permits them to peruse the case files and uses their services for tutoring the prosecution’s witnesses generally in addition to the victims. Such officials are even asked to visit the victim’s house and tutor them,” the SBA said.
According to the SBA, in the given circumstances advocates who conduct cases for the defense in the said court are constrained to very humbly and respectfully submit that generally proper justice is not at all being administered in the Court.
“As such it is our ardent request that appropriate measures be taken at the earliest for correcting the situation and ensuring that trial of cases under the POCSO Act, in Shillong, are held in a just and proper manner,” the SBA said.

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