Introduction to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 – Part 4
Safeguarding Children: Rights and Protections under the POCSO Act, 2012
In the preceding parts of this series, we have comprehensively explored the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act). Part 1 introduced the Act, Part 2 examined the nature of offenses, and Part 3 focused on the procedures and guidelines in handling POCSO cases. In Part 4, we will delve into the rights and protections afforded to children under the POCSO Act, highlighting the legal provisions that ensure their welfare.
Section 19(6) – Right to be Informed
The right to be informed is a crucial aspect of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act), and it plays a vital role in ensuring that the child and the child’s guardians are actively involved in the legal process. Here’s a detailed examination of this right: Section 19(6) of the POCSO Act emphasizes the obligation of the police officer to promptly report the matter to the Special Court, Special Juvenile Police Unit, and the local authority. It also mandates immediate arrangements for the child’s care and protection.
Section 19(6) of the POCSO Act, 2012
“The police officer shall, without unnecessary delay but within a period of twenty-four hours, report the matter to the Special Court and the Special Juvenile Police Unit and the local authority and in turn, shall make immediate arrangements to give the child, care and protection such as admitting the child to a shelter home or to the nearest hospital within twenty-four hours of the report.”
Explanation and Implications
- Prompt Reporting: The provision mandates that the police officer must report the matter without unnecessary delay, ensuring that the legal process is initiated swiftly. This is vital for the timely investigation and prosecution of the offense.
- Involvement of Specialized Authorities: The involvement of the Special Court and Special Juvenile Police Unit ensures that the case is handled by authorities trained to deal with child sexual abuse cases, ensuring sensitivity and expertise in handling the matter.
- Immediate Care and Protection: The provision also emphasizes immediate arrangements for the child’s care and protection, including admission to a shelter home or hospital. This ensures that the child’s immediate physical and emotional needs are addressed.
- Informing the Child and Guardians: While Section 19(6) does not explicitly mention informing the child and guardians, it is part of the broader framework of the Act that emphasizes the child’s right to be informed about the proceedings. This includes the right to know about the progress of the investigation, the right to legal representation, and the right to participate in the trial as appropriate.
- Empowering the Child and Guardians: By ensuring that the child and guardians are informed, the Act empowers them to actively participate in the legal process. It recognizes their agency and ensures that they are not mere passive recipients of legal decisions but active participants in seeking justice.
Section 23: Right to Privacy
The right to privacy is a fundamental aspect of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act), and it plays a crucial role in protecting the dignity and well-being of the child. Section 23 of the POCSO Act emphasizes the child’s right to privacy by prohibiting the disclosure of the child’s identity or any details that may lead to identification during any stage of inquiry, investigation, or judicial proceedings. Here’s a detailed examination of this right:
Section 23 of the POCSO Act, 2012
“No report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or audio-visual media or other forms of communication regarding any inquiry or investigation or judicial proceedings at any stage, shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particular, which may lead to the identification of a child.”
Explanation and Implications
- Protecting the Child’s Identity: The provision explicitly prohibits the disclosure of any details that may lead to the identification of the child. This includes not only the child’s name but also the address, school, or any other particulars.
- Applicability to All Forms of Media: The provision applies to all forms of communication, including newspapers, magazines, audio-visual media, and other forms. This broad applicability ensures comprehensive protection of the child’s privacy.
- Preventing Stigmatization: By safeguarding the child’s identity, the provision helps prevent potential stigmatization, social ostracization, or further trauma that may arise from public exposure. It recognizes the sensitive nature of child sexual abuse cases and the potential harm that public disclosure can cause.
- Encouraging Reporting: The assurance of privacy may encourage more victims and their families to come forward and report offenses. Knowing that their identity will be protected can alleviate fears of social backlash or humiliation.
- Compliance with International Standards: The right to privacy aligns with international child rights standards, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which emphasizes the child’s right to privacy and dignity.
- Penalty for Violation: The Act also prescribes penalties for the violation of this provision, ensuring that those who unlawfully disclose the child’s identity are held accountable.
Abetment and Attempt to Child Sexual Abuse
Section 16: Abetment of Offenses
Abetment refers to the act of encouraging, aiding, or conspiring with another person to commit an offense. Under Section 16 of the POCSO Act, anyone who abets an offense under the Act is liable to the same punishment as the principal offender if the offense is committed as a result of the abetment.
“Whoever abets any offense under this Act, if the act abetted is committed in consequence of the abetment, shall be punished with the punishment provided for the offense.”
Explanation: This provision ensures that those who play a role in facilitating or encouraging the commission of a sexual offense against a child are held accountable. It reflects the understanding that abetment can be as culpable as the commission of the offense itself.
Section 17: Attempt to Commit Offense
Section 17 of the POCSO Act deals with the attempt to commit an offense under the Act. Even if the offense is not completed, the mere attempt is punishable.
“Whoever attempts to commit any offense under this Act or to cause such an offense to be committed and in such attempt does any act towards the commission of the offense, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one-half of the imprisonment for life for that offense, or, as the case may be, one-half of the longest term of imprisonment provided for that offense or with fine or with both.”
Explanation: This provision recognizes that an attempt to commit a sexual offense against a child is a serious wrong in itself, even if the attempt is unsuccessful. It ensures that those who take substantial steps towards committing an offense are held criminally responsible.
Section 18: Punishment for Attempt to Commit Offense
Section 18 further elaborates on the punishment for attempting to commit an offense, providing specific details on the penalties for different offenses.
“Whoever, with sexual intent, touches the private parts of a child, makes the child fondle his private parts, entices a child to do the same with another person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.”
Explanation: This section specifically addresses attempts involving inappropriate touching or enticing a child to engage in sexual acts. It sets clear penalties for these actions, reflecting the Act’s commitment to protecting children from all forms of sexual exploitation.
The rights and protections under the POCSO Act, 2012, form a robust framework that prioritizes the child’s well-being, dignity, and privacy. From ensuring the right to be informed to safeguarding privacy and addressing abetment, the Act provides a comprehensive approach to child protection. These provisions reflect a thoughtful and child-centric legal system that recognizes the unique vulnerabilities and needs of child victims.
References and Provisions of Law Referred
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012
- Section 19(6): Right to be informed
- Section 23: Right to privacy
- Section 16: Abetment of offenses
This article offers a detailed examination of the rights and protections under the POCSO Act, 2012, building on the previous parts of the series. It contributes to a holistic understanding of the Act’s provisions and their practical implications, emphasizing the legal framework’s commitment to safeguarding children’s rights and welfare in India.