The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012

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Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012  was  passed by Lok Sabha on 22nd May 2012, earlier the bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on 10th May 2012. As Child abuses increased nearly Fifty three percent of children in India, faces some form of child sexual abuse, and need for stringent law has been felt many times and therefore the said Act was enacted. It is noted that  of Article 15 (3) of the Constitution empowers the State to make special provisions for protection of children and Government of India acceded to Convention on the Rights of Child on December, 11, 1992, and ordered State parties to follow the rules prescribed by General Assembly of the United Nations to protect the children. Prior to the enactment of the said Act, there was only one legislation dealing with the present subject child abuse such as Goa Children’s Act, 2003 and there had been other Sections under Indian Penal Code, 1860 such as Sections 375, and 377 dealt with abuse but it could not protect the child effectively as it was not designed to criminalize sexual abuse of children. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, a special Act was passed especially to protect the children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pronography as the main objective. The Act also specially laid for establishment of Special Courts for trial of offences related to children and for matters connected thereto.

The Act comprised of 49 Sections in brief and explanation provided thereto and it extends to the whole of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The whole Act dealt with offences committed to children and punishments in related to such offences . Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 defines child as any person below the age of 18 years and offences committed to children below the age of 18. Sexual Assault considered as the major offence that has been dealt in Section 7 of Act and it has given more or less the same meaning described in Section 354 of Indian Penal Code and Section 7 prescribes that any person whoever with sexual intent touches the private parts of child without penetration, is committed to have sexual assault and such person would be severely punished for same.

Sections 3 and 5 deals with offences related to Penetrative and aggravated penetrative sexual assaults. Penetrative sexual assault defines as any person whoever manipulates any part of the body to cause penetration with intention commits Penetrative sexual assault. A police officer or a member of armed forces, security forces commits Penetrative sexual assault in course of their duty, then it is said to be committed as Aggravated penetrative sexual assault. As sexual harassment not only relates to women but also to the children especially to children under age of 18, person who sexually harassing such child by making any sign or gesture with intention should be punished under Section 8 of Act.

As the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 came into existence specifically for the welfare of the children, stages of trial, recording of statement differs in every aspect by  providing the children bias free and friendly circumstances through the stages of trial by appointing Special Juvenile Police Unit, Special Public Prosecutor and establishment of Special Court where children tried for offences.

Under the said Act, every police officer has the duty to look after the offences committed within his jurisdiction or area limit. Special Juvenile Police Unit has been designated to look after offences committed against children, and any person who has knowledge of offence committed against children may provide information to Special Juvenile Police Unit under Section 19. It is the duty of every police officer who has been designated under Special Juvenile Police unit to make special arrangements to protect the children with care until trial. Special Juvenile Police Unit is obliged to report the information regarding offence under the Act to Child Welfare Committee or to Special Court within twenty four hours for the speedy trial.

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Legal aid has been everyone’s right as permitted under law, children under 18 years of age also eligible to legal aid, Special Public Prosecutor would be appointed under Section 32 of Act for providing legal aid to children by trying of cases under Special Court. Special Court differs from  ordinary Courts as it specially designated for the welfare of the children to try offences related to children. Special Court under Section 28 would also try for the offences comes within jurisdiction of Information Technology Act, 2000 for punishing offenders who publishes sexual explicit material depicting children under Section 13 and 14 of Act. As memory of child and his/her behavior differs from that of adult, and has a short memory and playful mind,  Act lays restriction to Special Court to record the evidence within 30 days and to complete the trial within one year.

The Act also prescribed a Special procedure for recording statement of child, in which it is stated that children statement should be recorded at the residence of child or at place of children choice where children are free to give statement without any state of fear. Woman police officer not below the rank of sub-inspector should record the statement of child as provided under Section 24. Act has given special preference to children as no children to be detained in the police station in the night for any reason as criminals and no police officer should be in uniform while recording statement of child. Magistrate should record the statement as outspoken by child, if statement of child being recorded under Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

As it is necessary to protect the child’s right to privacy and confidentiality for the proper development of child prescribed under Act, Government designated certain authorities to monitor the implementation of the Act such as National Commission for protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs). The Act specially casts the duty on Central and State Government to spread awareness to the general public especially to children, parents and guardians to know the offences against children and how child be protected by all means and through every stages of process involving the child.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 amended the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and substituted few new Sections 166A, 354 A, 354B, 354C, 376 of Indian Penal Code and made changes to Section 42 of Act which deals with the punishment in relation to offences committed stated therein. After Introduction of  Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, there are many International treaties, Conventions and Countries which lays basic foundation to protect the Children against exploitation and sexual abuse majorly as one of them been United Nations Convention on Rights of Child (CRC) International Treaty, legally obligates nations to protect child rights. On December 2014, 1995 Countries have ratified (CRC) Convention except the United States and South Sudan.

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An overview of the Act 2012 acts as a boon to children as no Law until made a difference between an adult and child, the Act first time differentiated the child abuse from that of the sexual abuse against women, and also considered the sexual abuse against children as serious offence and punish the persons who commit such offences prescribed in the Act. The Act also emphasized to appoint Special Investigation Unit to conduct the cases filed under Act and report to the stages of the proceedings to the Special Court in regular intervals. The Act also prescribed special procedures for recording the statements of child victim considering the child’s memory capacity and mandated the concerned authorities to conclude the trials within stipulated period of time specified in the Act. The Act also provided the appropriate mechanism for implementation of the Act to prevent the child abuse. Overall the Act is a timely enactment in the today’s scenario in our country where we find increasing number of crimes against children and duty casts on every citizen to respect and follow the law laid for children and not to misuse the provisions laid which protect the children against sexual offences.