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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : 10 years of POCSO

 

Source: Indian Express

 

  • Prelims: POCSO, National Crime Record Bureau etc
  • Mains GS Paper I and II: Vulnerable sections of society, Laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections of society etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ten years after the enactment of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, an analysis of POCSO cases across India has found gaps in its implementation including:
    • Increasing pendency of cases
    • High rate of acquittals.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

POCSO Act:

  • The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development led the introduction of the POCSO Act in 2012.
  • The Act was designed to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography
  • Special courts: Provide for the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of such offenses.
  • Amendment: The Act was amended in 2019 for enhancing the punishments for specific offenses in order to deter abusers and ensure a dignified childhood.

 

Key Features of the Act:

 

Issues related to Child Sexual Abuse:

  • Multi-layered Problem: impacts children’s physical safety, mental health, well-being and behavioral aspects.
  • Amplification Due to Digital Technologies: New forms of child abuse like online bullying, harassment and Child Pornography
  • Ineffective Legislaton:POCSO Act has failed to protect child from sexual abuse.

 

A Decade of POCSO’: By Justice, Access and Lowering Delays in India (JALDI) Initiative and Data Evidence for Justice Reform (DE JURE) program at the World Bank:

  • It analyzed a total of 230,730 cases from 486 districts spanning 28 states and Union Territories, from 2012 to February 2021.

 

International child convention India is signatory of:

  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children

 

Basis for legislation:

  • Child sexual abuse racket was busted in Goa(1990)
  • Special Expert Committee under Justice VR Krishna Iyer presented a draft code for child rights in India – the Children’s Code Bill, 2000.
  • The Study of Child Abuse report(2007)by the Ministry of Women and Child Development: It found that 50.76(fifty point seven six)% of children surveyed reported having faced one or more form of sexual abuse.

 

Key findings on crimes against children:

  • Trials and convictions: 43.44(forty three point four four)% of trials under POCSO end in acquittals while only 40.03(forty point zero three)% end in convictions.
  • Acquittals are significantly higher than convictions for all the states studied: Example:
    • Andhra Pradesh, acquittals are seven times more than convictions
    • West Bengal, acquittals are five times more than convictions.
  • Out of 138 judgements looked at in detail by the study: Only in 6% of the cases were the accused people strangers to the victim.
  • National Crime Record Bureau(2021): 96% of the cases filed under the POCSO Act, 2012, the accused was a person known to the child victim.
  • Penetrative sexual assault and aggravated penetrative sexual assault : They together comprise over half of all POCSO cases.

 

Quality of justice under POCSO:

  • Time for disposal of cases: On average, it takes more than 16 months for a POCSO case to be disposed of (against a prescribed period of 1 year).
  • Covid 19: There was a sharp increase in the number of pending cases between 2019 and 2020.
  • Transfer of cases: Due to administrative mismanagement or wrongful appreciation of facts by the police”.

 

Reasons for delay:

  • Investigation: Slow pace of investigation by the police
  • Delay in depositing samples with the Forensic Science Laboratories

 

How do different Indian states fare?

  • Delhi has the highest number of POCSO trials in the country(13.54(thirteen point five four)cases per 100,000 population in 2018).
  • Chandigarh and West Bengal:They are the only states where the average time taken for convictions is within one year.
  • The five districts with the highest number of POCSO trials (pending and disposed) are: Namchi (Sikkim), New Delhi, Central Delhi, Medak (Telangana) and West Garo Hills (Meghalaya)
  • Uttar Pradesh: It has the highest pendency with more than three-fourths of the total POCSO cases(filed between 2012-2021).
    • Tamil Nadu has the highest disposal percentage(80.2(eighty point two)%.

 

Current Issues:

  • According to the study: Support persons are not being appointed in most POCSO cases.
    • The Supreme Court had also noted that in 96% of cases, a support person was not provided to the victim.
  • POCSO courts have not been designated in all districts: As of 2022, 408 POCSO courts have been set up in 28 States as part of the Government’s Fast Track Special Court’s Scheme.
  • Special public Prosecutors: There is a lack of Special Public Prosecutors appointed specifically to handle POCSO cases, and even when they are appointed they are often employed for non-POCSO cases.

 

Related Constitutional Provisions:

  • Article 21: Every child the right to live with dignity the right to personal liberty and the right to privacy
  • Article 14: the right to equality
  • Article 15: right against discrimination
  • Article 23 & 24: right against exploitation
  • Article 21A: Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 year age.
  • Article 39(f): Obligation on the State to ensure that:
    • Children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity
    • Childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.

 

Support person:

  • A Person or organization working in the field of child rights or child protection
  • An official of a children’s home or a shelter home having custody of the child
  • A person employed by the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU), who hand holds the victim through the entire legal process.

Way Forward

  • Preventive activities: The need of the hour is to prioritize prevention activities against abuse, creating safe online environments for children.
  • Developing a comprehensive outreach system to engage parents, schools, communities, Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) partners and local governments as well as police and lawyers.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Examine the main provisions of the National Child Policy and throw light on the status of its implementation.(UPSC 2016)   (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)