What is POCSO?
The Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act was enacted in 2012 to address sexual abuse of children (defined to be till the age of 18 years) in different forms. It creates offences depending on the circumstances of the act, and provides for a ‘child friendly’ investigative and judicial procedure for the case. This also includes establishing a special court.
What offences are covered under POCSO?
The core offences created under this law are penetrative and aggravated penetrative sexual assault, sexual and aggravated sexual assault, sexual harassment, and using a child for pornographic purposes.
The aiding and abetting as well as the attempt of these offences are also penalized. The act also places a legal duty upon a person who has apprehension or knowledge that an offence may or has already been committed to report the offence (section 19).
This table outlines the offences under the Act with their punishments:
|Penetrative Sexual Assault||7 years||Life imprisonment||Yes|
|Aggravated Penetrative Assault||10 years||Life imprisonment||Yes|
|Sexual Assault||3 years||5 years||Yes|
|Aggravated Sexual Assault||5 years||7 years||Yes|
|Sexual Harassment||3 years||Yes|
|Abetment of an Offence||Abetment of an offence has the same punishment as the offence itself|
|Attempt of an Offence||Punishment of either one half of life imprisonment or one half of the longest term provided for the offence||And/or|
|Use Of Child For Pornographic Purposes||5 years||Yes|
|Second Conviction ||7 years||Yes|
|Penetrative Sexual Assault for pornographic purposes (direct participation)||10 years||Life imprisonment||Yes|
|Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault for pornographic purposes||Rigorous Life Imprisonment||Yes|
|Sexual Assault for pornographic purposes||6 years||8 years||Yes|
|Aggravated Sexual Assault for pornographic purposes||8 years||10 years||Yes|
|Store of pornographic material for commercial purposes||3 years||And/or|
What are the important authorities under the POCSO?
How does POCSO make procedures easier for children with disabilities to participate in?
POCSO offers a child-friendly process and requires the dignity and autonomy of the child to be respected at all of stages of the legal process. This is the roadmap of procedures under the law:
|Police/ Special Police Juvenile Unit|
|Child Welfare Committee|
|District Child Protection Unit|
|Special Court/ Judge|
|National Commission for protection of child rights/ State commission for protection of child rights|
What other safeguards are provided to children with disabilities under the act?
Children with disabilities have the right to an interpreter or special educator who may be brought on board from the time the child is being examined for the first time. The authority recording the statement of the child – be it the Magistrate or the Police Officer – may seek the assistance of either a special educator or any person familiar with the manner of communication of the child or an expert in that field. This provides a wide range of options to enable the child to participate in the proceedings.
A special educator is defined as a person trained in communication with children with special needs in a way that addresses the child’s individual differences and needs, which include challenges with learning and communication, emotional and behavioural disorders, physical disabilities, and developmental disorders. Normally, special educators and sign language interpreters should hold requisite qualifications and certification from the Rehabilitation Council of India, but these can be relaxed in individual circumstances.
A ‘person familiar with the manner of communication of the child’ means a parent or family member of a child or a member of his/her shared household or any person in whom the child reposes trust and confidence, who is familiar with that child’s unique manner of communication, and whose presence may be required for or be conducive to more effective communication with the child.
Of course, the Court must be satisfied that this person has no conflict of interest with the proceedings. If the child expresses any preference or choice regarding their support persons, this will be considered, and if required, more than one person may be engaged to facilitate proceedings.
As per the Juvenile Justice Act, funds are to be maintained to enable proceedings, and these funds will be used to pay interpreters or special educators where engaged.
Here are some important authorities you can get in touch with:
- Delhi Commission for Child Rights (5th Floor, ISBT Building, Kashmere Gate, Delhi-110006)
- Special Juvenile Police Units
- Child Welfare Committees