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POCSO Act: India’s Special Law to Protect Children


The POCSO Act, which became effective on November 14, 2012, was established following India’s commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. This special law is aimed at tackling sexual exploitation and abuse of children, addressing acts that were not adequately defined or punished previously. According to this Act, a child is defined as anyone below 18 years of age, and the punishments are determined based on the seriousness of the offense.

In 2019, the Act underwent a review and amendment to introduce stricter penalties, including the possibility of the death penalty, for those who commit sexual crimes against children. This change was made to discourage potential offenders and safeguard children from such heinous acts. Additionally, the Indian government has also introduced the POCSO Rules in 2020 to support the implementation of this important law.


Recognition of Gender Equality

This reflects the important principle that all children have the right to be protected from sexual abuse and exploitation, and the law aims to be fair to all children regardless of their gender.

Easier Reporting

Today, there is a growing awareness about reporting cases of child sexual exploitation. The POCSO Act has even made it an offense not to report such incidents, making it harder to conceal crimes against children, whether they’re committed by individuals or institutions.

Clear Definitions

The law has introduced new provisions, including making the possession of child pornography a distinct offense. Additionally, it provides a clear and specific definition of ‘sexual assault’ with increased minimum penalties, as opposed to the vague and abstract language used in the Indian Penal Code’s description of ‘outraging the modesty of a woman.’

POCSO Rules 2020

When a case related to a child victim is registered under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses) Act, there are important rules in place to support the child’s well-being and legal journey.

  1. Providing Initial Assistance: The Special Court can order interim compensation to address the child’s immediate needs for relief or rehabilitation. This compensation can be adjusted against any final compensation that might be granted later.
  2. Quick Financial Aid: The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) has the authority to recommend immediate financial assistance for essential requirements like food, clothing, and transportation. This support can be funded through various legal channels, including the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) and the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU), as well as resources specified in the Juvenile Justice Act 2015. It’s crucial that this financial aid is provided within a week of the CWC’s recommendation.
  3. Support Person for the Child: The POCSO Rules also empower the CWC to appoint a support person to assist the child throughout the investigation and trial processes. This support person has the responsibility of safeguarding the child’s best interests, which includes their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. They also ensure the child has access to medical care, counseling, and education. Additionally, they keep the child and their parents or guardians informed about court proceedings and any updates regarding the case. This support is aimed at helping the child cope with the legal process while ensuring their overall welfare.

What are the Issues and Challenges with the POCSO Act?

Shortage of Women in the Police Force

The POCSO Act mandates that a child’s statement be recorded by a female sub-inspector at their chosen location, but this becomes difficult when only 10% of the police force consists of women, and many police stations lack female staff.

Investigation Lapses

While the law allows for audio-video statements, there are still cases where investigations and crime scene preservation are not up to par. In a 2018 case, the Supreme Court stressed the importance of photographing and videographing crime scenes in heinous crime cases.

Absence of Examination by Judicial Magistrates

The act requires statements from the victim to be recorded by a judicial magistrate, but these statements often go unexamined during trials. Those who retract their statements are not punished, rendering their statements ineffective.

Age Determination Challenge

Unlike the Juvenile Justice Act, the POCSO Act lacks provisions for determining the age of juvenile victims. This issue persists as investigators rely on school records for age verification.

Delays in Filing Charges

While the POCSO Act calls for investigations to be completed within a month, practical delays often occur due to resource shortages, difficulties in obtaining forensic evidence, or the complexity of cases.

Lack of Conditions for Proving Offense

Unlike the Indian Evidence Act, the POCSO Act doesn’t require specific conditions for the prosecution to prove recent intercourse and the consent of the victim. This oversight can hinder conviction rates despite evidence of a victim’s minor age.

Read Also: Death Penalty in India

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