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What is Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act?

Tulika Tandon

Recently the Chairman of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Priyank Kanoongo has stated that there are many active Pedophile groups on micro-blogging site Twitter. He informed that there is much content on Twitter related to cjild sexual abuse and more than 30 websites that are linked to this microblogging site related to such issues. 

In response to this news, The NCPCR has written to the Centre that children must be banned from using Twitter as the platform is quite unsafe for them. 

What is the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act?

The POCSO Act of 2012 was enforced with the aim to protect children from being sexually assaulted and being used as subjects in pornography while protecting their interests. 

It was formed to provide a child-friendly system for trial underneath which the perpetrators could be punished. 

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POCSO Act: Provisions and Punishment

  1. As per the act, a Child is any person who is below 18 years of age. 
  2. It includes provisions for avoiding the re-victimisation of a child at the hands of the judicial system. 
  3. It received the President’s assent on June 19, 2012 and was notified in the Gazette of India on June 20, 2012.
  4. In the act various forms of sexual abuse have been defined that include both penetrative and non-penetrative assault.
  5. It also involves sexual harassment, pornography and others. 
  6. The Act also states about those circumstances where sexual assault is to be considered aggravated. For example “ if the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a member of the armed forces or security forces or a public servant or a person in a position of trust or authority of the child, like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor or a person-management or staff of a hospital — whether Government or private.”
  7. As per the Act it is mandatory to report such cases. In case one fails to do so, he/she may face a hefty fine or imprisonment for 6 months.
  8. As stated in POCSO, the evidence of the child must be recorded within a period of thirty days from the crime. 
  9. The Special Court which has taken cognizance of the matter must under any circumstance, complete the trial within the period of one year from the date of taking cognizance of the abuse.
  10. Special Court proceedings must be recorded in camera & the trial must take place in the presence of parents or any guardian trusted by the child. 
  11. As per the Act false information or misuse would also be punished.
  12. The Act prescribes punishment to the people who traffic children too. 

Best Features of POCSO Act:

The best feature of the POCSO Act is that it is gender neutral. It recognises sexual violence against boys as well. It is better than Indian Penal Code that does not recognize the sexual assault on boys. 

Also the definition of the sexual assault includes non penetrative sexual assault along with aggravated penetrative sexual assault in sections 3-10. 

It also includes the punishment for people in authority and position too. Be it a public servant, staff of educational institutes or police itself, they would be punished. 

It also recognises the sexual harassment of any child involving touch, along with those which doesn’t. It is included in sections 11 and 12 of the act, including stalking, forcing any child to expose themselves or exposing himself to a child and more. 

The Act inlcudes the punishment for those who also create material from child abuse (pornography).

POCSO does not explicitly recognise grooming but many experts are of the view that section 11 of the Act could be interpreted to recognise and criminalise it. 

Grooming involves acts of establishing and perpetuating a relationship with a child either in person or in online mode to facilitate either online or offline sexual contact with the child. Section 67(b) of the Information Technology Act criminalises it. Thus POCSO Act acts as a coverage for the child rights in India. 

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