Child sexual abuse, recent amendments. How helpful are these?

Child sexual abuse, recent amendments. How helpful are these?

POCSO or The Prevention Of Child Sexual Offences, Act, 2011,  is one such law, which specialises in penalising child sexual abusers and prevents such grave crimes, leaving a deterrent effect on potential abusers.

The recent Kathua rape case has highlighted the plight of the child all over the country. This gruesome incident didn't only reflect the fault in our penal provisions and judiciary but the very vacuum in the society which calls for some real moral enactments.

With public outrage and the extreme cases or the rarest of the rare scenarios becoming regular,  the legislature was compelled to bring a few major amendments, in the POCSO Act.

The following amendments were brought in, namely;-

1. In case of the rape of a child below the age of 12, the penalty is life imprisonment, extending to death penalty.

2. In case of the rape of child below the age of 16 years of age, the penalty is 10-20 years of imprisonment extending up to life imprisonment, in case of gang rapes.  

3. The time limit for INVESTIGATION  has been fixed to not extending two months to expedite the whole process.  

4. Similarly, the time period fixed for the TRIAL is not extending more than  two months.

5. The provision of ANTICIPATORY BAIL has been removed for a person committing sexual abuse under POCSO.

With the increasing reportage of sexual crimes against children, With the increasing reportage of sexual crimes against children, we have been compelled to bring the present amendments, via which we are trying to regulate the months of trial and investigation, and impose death penalties,  hoping that it will bring the much-required DETERRENT effect.

But before this, we need to focus on the following harsh realities.

1. In  Indian society rape is not seen as a crime and the woman or child is made to feel ashamed for it rather than the criminal.

2. In majority of the child sexual abuse cases, the offenders are a family member or known to the victim.  Therefore, families shy away from bringing the incident to light and these strong punishments are going to affect the reporting even more.

Considering that the reporting will eventually cause the death penalty,  families will desist from reporting the crime, which will increase the incidence instead of the crimes  reducing in number

3. The introduction of death penalty makes it a crime equal to murder.  The criminal or the offender is left or rather given an incentive to kill the victim so as to avoid any witness leading to death penalty

The need is to bring a graded punishment for each type of crime depending on its severity. The amendment makes the trial and investigation a speedy business or at least it tries to do so. While we ignore the fact that the police and investigation system itself is slow and inefficient in investigation.

The testing labs, testing  DNA samples, having the utmost importance in the case itself runs on a two year delay and waiting time, leading to failed sampling. Evidence acquired from the victim's body are reported to be as late as two months to one year which obviously doesn't hold any value.

These tests are the primary evidence and these are either not obtained or not conducted, or not conducted in time or conducted but held insufficient.

5. Evidence kept with the police is barely brought to court and neither does the prosecution or the defence have a chance to demand for it. We need to bring major amendments in the CrPC to make other penal provisions actually effective.

6.  Speedy trials and speedy justice require institutional changes and promising methods of investigation along with a scientific approach.

The system thus needs to be fast and rigorous and not only harsh and dreadful.

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Blog Creator: Tanu Singhal