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- An analysis titled “A Decade of Pocso’’, carried out by the Justice, Access and Lowering Delays in India (JALDI) has found that case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act;
- 44% of trials end in acquittals and 14.03% lead to convictions under POSCO Act.
- In 22.9% of cases accused were known to the victims, and in 3.7% of cases, they were family members.
- 18% were involved in a “prior romantic relationship” while the relationship between the victim and accused were not identified in 44%.
- According to data published by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) in 2021; in nearly 96% of cases, the accused was a person known to the victim.
- The analysis “A Decade of Pocso’’ was conducted in collaboration with the Data Evidence for Justice Reform (DE JURE) program at the World Bank.
- It studied 230,730 cases from eCourts in 486 districts across 28 states and Union Territories for the period 2012 to 2021.
- Among the states, Andhra Pradesh shows a huge difference between acquittal and conviction figures with 56.15% of the total disposed cases ending in acquittals and only 7.25% convictions.
- In West Bengal, acquittals (53.38%) are nearly five times the conviction figures (11.56%).
- In Kerala, the gap between acquittal and conviction is not very high with acquittals constituting 20.5% of the total cases and convictions constituting 16.49%’’.
- Delhi has the highest number of POCSO trials with the number reaching 13.54 cases per 100,000 populations in 2018.
- Uttar Pradesh has the highest pendency with more than 77% of the total cases filed between November 2012 and February 2021.
- The study found a sharp increase of cases in the number of pending cases between 2019 and 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.
- The study found that on average, it takes nearly 510 days for a case to be disposed of, whereas the POCSO Act has the provision that cases should be disposed of within a year.
Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act
- The POCSO Act was enacted in 2012.
- It is a gender-neutral act; it also recognizes that boys can also become victims of sexual violence as well.
- It defines a child as someone under the age of 18.
- It also specifically lays down stringent punishment for exposing children to or using them to create child sexual abuse material.
- The law lays down the procedures for reporting sexual crimes against children.
- It places the burden of proof on the accused, following ‘guilty until proven innocent’ unlike the IPC.
- The Act penalizes storage of pornographic material for commercial purposes with a punishment of up to 3 years, or a fine, or both.
Challenges with the act
- Lack of complaint: Most of the victims experience terrific social humiliation and feelings of shame and guilt when they report that they are sexually assaulted. It either delays or leaves out a no of victims.
- Lack of awareness: Parents or guardians often do not have the knowledge to safeguard their children either by educating the children about sexual abuse or by being watchful to prevent abuse on their children.
- Poor rate of conviction: POSCO act is plagued by the low rate of conviction. It was 14% in 2014 and 18% in 2018.
- Many states have not complied with the provisions of the act as they have not established special children's courts.
- The act doesn't cover all aspects of the crime against children. It doesn't cover cyberbullying and other types of online crime against children.
- Ineffective training of public prosecutors has often led to the acquittal of the perpetrator.
- More awareness needs to be generated to make more children come forward for their child abuse.
- Proper training of police, forensic staff and public prosecutors need to be put in place for enhancement o the conviction rate.
- The introduction of sex education in schools and educating the children about good touch and bad touch is significant. In 2008-09 Parliamentary committee report mentions the introduction of sex education, but it never materialized. It has to be implemented.
- The Supreme Court issued a direction to set up special courts within 60 days in the districts that are having more than 100 pending POCSO cases. This has to be implemented urgently.