Judging A Decade Of POCSO

Source: The post is based on the article “Judging A Decade Of POCSO” published in The Times of India on 22nd November 2022.

Syllabus: GS-2 – Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Relevance: About the implementation of the POCSO Act.

News: On November 14, 2022, the POCSO Act completed a decade of being on the statute books in India. It is now time to analyse how the Act meets the objectives it set out to achieve.

What is the POCSO Act?
Read here: POCSO Act
What are the hurdles in the implementation of POCSO Act?

The Act has encountered hurdles at all stages of its implementation. This is because,

On the government side, there is a) A slow pace to designate Special Courts. b) A delay in investigation and filing of chargesheets, c) A non-appointment of support persons for child victims.

From the judicial angle, there is a delay in the disposal of POCSO cases presents one of the biggest challenges in meeting the Act’s objectives.

For instance, a) For cases ending in acquittal, while Chandigarh takes about six months (on average) to dispose of a case, Himachal Pradesh takes about two years and 10 months, b) For cases ending in conviction, the average case length ranges from about 10 months in Chandigarh to over three years and nine months in Delhi.

What are the potential impacts of the hurdles on the implementation of the POCSO Act?

1) Negatively impact the child victim who might be re-traumatised by being forced to relive the details of an incident of sexual violence years later, 2) Slow disposals may also have a bearing on the outcome of the trial. As more time passes, witnesses might start to forget important details pertaining to the case.

Read more: The POCSO Act and associated issues
What are the positive aspects in the implementation of the POSCO Act?

a) The criminal justice system is more sensitive towards child victims today than it was a decade ago, b) Varying performance of states in the time they take to dispose of POCSO cases goes on to show that the states lagging behind might catch up in some time.

Read more: Historical Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse under POCSO Act
What should be done to improve the implementation of the POCSO Act?

The government and the judiciary need to assess the gaps in implementation and strengthen the capacity of the various actors to meet the objectives of the Act.

-Policy interventions to improve the functioning of the Act must be tailored to meet the specific capacity constraints faced by different states and a one-size-fits-all approach is best avoided.

-The better-performing states can help to evolve certain best practices that can be adopted by other states.

-Strong data systems and digital platforms can help transfer learning across states and contextualise the best practices to the local courts.

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