- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
What to study?
For Prelims: POCSO Act provisions.
For Mains: Sexual abuse of children- prevention and need for stringent provisions, causes for delay in pending cases.
Context: The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to set up special courts in each district across the country that have over a 100 cases of child abuse and sexual assault pending trial under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Need for special courts:
Present Slow pace of action on protection of children from sexual predators. As per available data, number of victims compensated under Pocso were 3% in 2015, 4% in 2016 and 5% in 2017. Around 1.5 lakh cases are pending trial before 670 designated courts.
Though the Act mandates trial to be completed in one year, the deadline is impossible to achieve as each designated trial judge is saddled with a few hundred cases in addition to the trial of other cases.
Guidelines by the SC for Setting up of special courts:
- Such courts will be funded by the central government. The fund will not only take care of the appointment of the presiding officer but also appointments of support persons, special public prosecutors, court staff and infrastructure, including creation of childfriendly environment and vulnerable witness court rooms.
- Awareness: WCD ministry shall facilitate screening of “short clips intended to spread awareness of the subject in general, namely, prevention of child abuse and prosecution of crimes against children, in every movie hall and could also be transmitted by various television channels at regular intervals.
- A child helpline number should also be displayed in such clips and at schools and other public places.
Kerala has the worst judge-case ratio, as it has set up just three designated courts for 14 districts with each required to deal with 2,211 cases.
Chhattisgarh and Punjab have the lowest average of 51 cases per designated court.
Recent amendments proposed:
Union Cabinet has approved the Amendments in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
Key changes proposed:
- It will make punishment more stringent for committing sexual crimes against children including death penalty.
- It includes provision of death penalty in cases of sexual offences against children.
- The amendments also provide for levy of fines and imprisonmentto curb child pornography.
- Amendments are also proposed to protect children from sexual offences in times of natural calamities and in other situations where children are administered, in any way, any hormone or any chemical substance, to attain early sexual maturity for the purpose of penetrative sexual assault.
Sources: the Hindu.