By Muzamil Bashir
The recent brutal rape and murder of an 8 year old girl in Kathua and a similar other incident at Unnao, Utter Pradesh, has created a strong demand to make stringent laws to curb heinous crimes against children. Under fire for these gruesome rape cases, the Government of India(GoI) approved an ordinance amending the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), 2012 Act to introduce a new provision of death penalty to those convicted of raping children up to 12 years of age. Under the POCSO Act, the minimum punishment of raping a girl less than 16 years of age has been increased from 10 years to 20 years. The minimum punishment awarded for raping children below 12 years will be 20 years of imprisonment.
The GoI also decided to take measures for speedy probes and trials of rape cases. It also informed the Supreme Court that it has initiated the process of amending the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to ensure maximum punishment of death penalty in child rape cases where the victim is below the age of 12 years.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formed to protect children from offenses of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography and to provide a child-friendly system for the trial of these offences. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 received the President of India’s assent on June 19, 2012 and was notified in the Gazette of India on June 20, in the year 2012. Except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Act extends to the whole of India.
The brutal Rape and murder of an 8 year old girl in Kathua led to the discourse in public spheres and the voices to implement the POCSO Act in J&K State grew shriller. There have been other instances in the recent past where child offences were reported in the state and there have been a steep increase in the sexual offences against children. Due to absence of the POCSO Act in the state, it becomes impossible to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice. The amendments that have been affected in the POCSO Act can play an important role in the decline of the crimes against children in J&K, if the act is extended to the state. If POCSO Act cannot be implemented in the J&K, then the administration should bring a strong legislation at par the POCSO Act so that the child offences will be dealt strictly and the culprits brought to justice in minimum possible time. The administration should also keep the provisions for speedy trials of the crimes against children with stringent punishment to the culprits. It is high time for the administration to act on the child offences and make stringent laws specially dealing with sexual and other crimes against the children in the state.
—The author works with the Integrated Child protection Scheme(ICPS), District Baramulla. She can be mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org