The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Need for this legislation:

The above-mentioned Bill was recommended to amend the parent Act viz the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.which was originally passed on 22nd May 2012 in the Indian Parliament and came in effect from 14th November 2012. The basis of the parent Act was the U.N. Convention on rights of the child and the reason this Act was enacted was to protect our children who were being abused sexually with the instances almost doubling. India has a child population of around or maybe more than 400 million and this Act aimed at protecting the interest of the children, by giving them speedy justice, if they were victim of sexual offences, as opposed to the regular penal laws that have already existed. The process of trial under the regular laws were very cumbersome, therefore, this Act was introduced with an intention to penalise child offenders faster and make the process very child friendly and easy. Prior to the enactment of this Act children, if abused had to undergo the regular criminal process to punish their offenders, which was a very long and not a child friendly process. The main aim of the amendment was to make the punishments more stringent for sexual offences against children, who are under the age of 18 years. It is the Ministry of Women and Child Development that took the initiative in the introduction of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. This Act was introduced with an intention to create a major deterrent against offenders indulging in sexual offences against children.

The Centre has also notified the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2020 enabling implementation the above amendments to the Act under which provisions of punishment for child abuse are made more stringent.

Features of the 2012 Act are as follows:

The Act preliminarily defined a child as any person below eighteen years of age. The main aim of the Act was to ensure healthy physical, emotional, intellectual, rational and social development of the child. Under this Act for the first time there was recognition given to penile penetrations, as well as other than penile penetrations. Under this Act the victim was given access to legal aid under section 40 of the Act.

This Act recognised offences like, Penetrative Sexual Assault: Insertion of penis, object or another body part into child's private parts or mouth, or asking the child to do so with them or some other person It also criminalised passing sexually coloured remark, following the child, flashing, etc and Child Pornography. However, the drawback was that these offences would be dealt with by the regular courts and started taking a lot of time to reach final conclusion.

Reason for the 2019 amendment.

Justice delayed is justice denied, as was happening with the manner of conduct of proceedings under the parent Act. Hence, in order to have speedy disposal of the cases the government sanctioned 1023 fast track courts, to dispense cases which were pending under POCSO. The Rajya Sabha passed a Bill entailing amendments to the POCSO Act in 2019. The main features of the new Bill were

  • Including death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children, besides providing stringent punishments for other crimes against minors.
  • The proposed changes in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act also provides for fines and imprisonment to curb child pornography. The Sections 4, 5, 6 of the Act were proposed to be amended to provide the option of stringent punishment, including death penalty, for committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault on a child.
  • The proposed amendments make provisions for enhancement of punishments for various offences, so as to deter the perpetrators and ensure safety, security and dignified childhood for a child.
  • The Bill increased the minimum punishment from ten years to 20 years, and the maximum punishment to death penalty.
  • Under the new rules there is a provision of mandatory police verification of staff in schools and care homes, procedures to report sexual abuse material (pornography), imparting age-appropriate child rights education among others.

Procedure for Reporting a case of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)

The procedure under Section 19.1 of the POCSO Act is detailed as under

  • Any person who has apprehension that an offence is likely to be committed or has knowledge that an offence has been committed must bring the incident to the notice of the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) or the local police.
  • The failure to report such an offence, is punishable with imprisonment of upto six months or fine or both. This penalty is not applicable to a child less than 16 years of age.
  • To make it easy people can call the Childline on 1098 so they can connect you to the police and Child Welfare Committee.
  • The police have to record the report in writing, assign it an entry number, read the report over to the informant for verification and enter it in a book.
  • A FIR must be registered and a copy of the same should be handed over to the informant free of charge.
  • If the case is reported by a child, it should be recorded in a language that the child can understand. However, if the child cannot understand the language, the police must appoint a translator or an interpreter, as required.

Conclusion

The amendment brought about by the 2019 amendments is supposed to bring down child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent due to strong penal provisions as stated in the amendment. It aims at ensuring the safety and dignity of the innocent children.

The amendment being gender-neutral takes care of sexual assault of both minor boys and girls.

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