The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was enacted on November 14, 2012, to address child sexual abuse and child pornography.
The Act expanded the scope of reporting offenses against children and established provisions for enhanced sanctions to protect children and promote their well-being.
Amendments in the Act:
In 2019, the Act underwent amendments to impose stricter punishments for specific offenses, aimed at deterring potential abusers.
The amendments included provisions for the death penalty for aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
The Act removed the words “communal or sectarian violence” and replaced them with “violence during any natural calamity or similar situations” to broaden its applicability.
It increased the minimum punishment for penetrative sexual assault to 10 years and 20 years if the victim is below 16 years of age.
Gaps in Implementation:
An analysis conducted by the Justice, Access and Lowering Delays in India (JALDI) Initiative in collaboration with the Data Evidence for Justice Reform (DE JURE) program revealed concerning gaps in the implementation of the Act.
Acquittals in POCSO cases accounted for 43.44% of trials, while only 14.03% resulted in convictions.
Acquittals significantly outnumbered convictions in all states studied, such as seven times more in Andhra Pradesh and five times more in West Bengal.
In 96% of cases filed under the POCSO Act, the accused was known to the child victim.
The appointment of “support persons” in POCSO cases was inadequate, with only 4% of cases providing support to the victim as required.
On average, it took 509.78 days to dispose of a POCSO case, exceeding the one-year stipulated timeframe.
Delhi had the highest number of POCSO trials, indicating increased awareness and reporting, but also the highest average case length at 1,284.33 days.
Uttar Pradesh had the highest pendency rate, with 77.77% of cases pending, while Tamil Nadu demonstrated the highest disposal rate at 80.2%.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a rise in pending cases due to slow police investigation and delayed forensic sample submissions.
Inadequate designation of POCSO courts in all districts and the scarcity of appointed Special Public Prosecutors for POCSO cases hinder effective implementation.
The POCSO Act has addressed the issue of child sexual abuse, filling a void that previously existed under the Indian Penal Code. However, the Act’s full potential is yet to be realized, and continued efforts are required to ensure its effective implementation and protect children from sexual offenses.