What's the article about?
- It analyses the performance of the POCSO Act.
- GS2: Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections;
- Ten years have passed since the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
- It was enacted in consequence to India’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, came into effect on November 14, 2012.
- So let's analyse the performance of the POCSO Act.
Features of POCSO Act, 2012:
- It is a comprehensive law to provide for the protection of children from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interests of the child at every stage of the judicial process by incorporating child-friendly mechanisms for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and speedy trial of offences through appointment of Special Public Prosecutors and designated Special Courts.
- It deals with sexual offences against persons below 18 years of age, who are deemed as children.
- The Act for the first time, defines “penetrative sexual assault”, “sexual assault” and “sexual harassment”.
- The offence is considered graver if it is committed by a police officer, public servant, any member of the staff at a remand home, protection or observation home, jail, hospital or educational institution, or by a member of the armed or security forces.
- The storage of child pornography material has been made a new offence.
What are the positives of the act?
- Its gender-neutral nature.
- Data under cases registered under the act shows society's apprehension that the sexual exploitation of male children is also a serious issue that has been largely unreported.
- It helped to create sufficient general awareness now to report cases of sexual exploitation of children.
- Non-reporting has been made a specific offence under the POCSO Act for both individuals and institutions.
- This has made it comparatively difficult to hide offences against children.
What are the negatives of the act?
- The poor conviction rate is one of the major challenges.
- A large part of the investigation of offences under the Act is still guided by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
- The medical examination of the prosecutrix is conducted according to provisions of the CrPC.
- prosecutrix – A female victim of a crime on whose behalf the state is prosecuting a suspect
- The act makes no clear provisions for determining a juvenile offender's age. However, there is a clause to specify the age in the Juvenile Justice Act.
- The time mandated to complete investigation of rape (as in the CrPC, without a similar provision in the POCSO Act) is two months. Thus, unfortunately, the focus is largely on completion of investigation in two months irrespective of quality.
- If a charge sheet was not put up in 90 days of the arrest of the accused, he/she was granted bail.
- Now, when a charge sheet is put up in 60 days of the FIR (and not arrest), the accused may seek bail immediately after the filing of the charge sheet.
- Thus, it is the accused, and not the victim, who gets the benefit of completing an investigation in a shorter time.
- Owing to the above-mentioned challenges, it is time for a review of the way the POCSO Act is implemented to see how far it has helped victims of sexual exploitation and what more needs to be done to ensure justice.