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Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO)

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012: To effectively address the crimes of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) was passed by the parliament in 2012. The Ministry of Women and Child Development administers this first comprehensive law with the intention of protecting children from sexual assaults and harassment. The article mentions the features, importance, provisions, amendments, and rules related to the POCSO Act.

Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act)

In 2012, the parliament enacted the POCSO Act with the intention of preventing children aged less than 18 from committing offences like sexual harassment, sexual assault, and child pornography. The act is comprehensive and detailed legislation passed to protect children from all possible sexual offences. The Act covers protection against offences such as sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, and pornographic materials, as well as protecting them at every stage of the judicial proceedings by providing a child-friendly mechanism for information disclosure, capture proof, and the right to a speedy trial by special courts.

Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO Act) Overview
Name of the Act Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO)
Ministry Ministry of Women and Child Development
Year and Date of Enactment November 14, 2012
Amendment 2019
Rules 2020
POCSO Act 2012 Pdf PDF Link 

The POCSO Act 2012 turned out to be a significant legal framework intended to create a safer environment for the children of the nation. The act most importantly introduced the setting up of special courts that are better equipped to deal with such offences in a more effective manner. The act defined the term ‘Child’ and mentioned the age limit as any person below the age of 18 years. The Act further provides penalties depending on the gravity of the offence.

2019 Amendment under the POCSO Act 2012

The first amendment to the Act was in 2019 introducing more stringent punishment, including the death penalty for committing sexual crimes and aggravated penetrative sexual assault on children, with the intention of deterring the perpetrators and protecting children against such crimes. The amendment strengthened the penalties under the act. The 2019 Amendment categorizes sexual crimes as penetrative and non-penetrative assault, sexual misconduct, and pornographic material.

Principles of the POCSO Act 2012

The POCSO Act lays down 12 fundamental principles that are to be followed by every individual, government, child welfare committee, police, government personnel, special courts, NGOs, or any other professional present during the trial and assisting the child at their best during the trial. These guiding concepts include:

12 Guiding Principles under the POCSO Act
Right to life and survival A child must be protected from any kind of physical, psychological, mental, or emotional abuse and neglect.
Best interests of the child The foremost goal must be the harmonious development of the child.
Right to be treated with dignity and compassion Child victims should be treated with utmost care and sensitivity throughout the justice process
Right to be protected from discrimination The redressal process must be transparent, irrespective of any bias towards the child’s cultural, religious, linguistic or social orientation
Right to special preventive measures Preventive measures and training must be given to the victimized children for self-protection to avoid repeating the incident.
Right to be informed The child victim or witness must be well informed of the legal proceedings.
Right to be heard and to express views and concerns Every child has the right to be heard in respect of matters affecting him or her.
Right to effective assistance Victimized children should be provided with financial, legal, counselling, health, social, and educational services, physical and psychological recovery services, and other services necessary.
Right to Privacy The child’s privacy and identity must be protected at all stages of the pre-trial and trial processes.
Right to be protected from hardship during the justice process Secondary victimization or hardships for a child during the justice procedure must be minimized.
Right to safety A child victim must be protected throughout the trial, including before, during, and after the justice process.
Right to compensation The child victim may be awarded adequate compensation for his or her relief and rehabilitation.

POCSO Full Form

The term POCSO is an abbreviation. The full form is the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The Act was enacted in 2012 and is administered by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Features of the POCSO Act

The POCSO Act 2012 is an extremely important legal framework that lays down some distinct features:

  • The POCSO Act specifically defines the term ‘children’ as any individual aged below 18 years of age.
  • The POCSO Act defines multiple forms and acts of sexual abuse, not limiting the act just to pornography, harassment, or penetrative or non-penetrative offences.
  • The POCSO Act also states the special circumstances under which these acts would be considered ‘aggravated’ if the child is mentally ill and/or the perpetrator comes from a position of authority and/or trust, like a family member, doctor, teacher, etc.
  • The POCSO Act allows a policeman to play the role of a child protector throughout the investigation.
  • The POCSO Act establishes a gender-neutral tone for the legal framework available to child sexual abuse victims.
  • The POCSO Act specifies no time limit for reporting abuse; hence, the victim can report an offence at any time, even a number of years after the abuse has been committed.
  • The POCSO Act prohibits disclosure of the victim’s identity in any form of media and maintains confidentiality.
  • The POCSO Act requires the process of investigation to be made as child-friendly as possible.
  • The POCSO Act states that justice is to be served promptly within a year from the reporting of the incident.
  • The POCSO Act most importantly lays the setting up of ‘Special Courts’ that will exclusively deal with such offences with the sensibility and sensitivity they need.
  • The POCSO Act makes the reporting of a sexual offence mandatory, and any person who fails to report the commission of the sexual offence is liable to be punished.

POCSO Act and Constitutional Provisions

The Constitution of India ensures rights for every citizen, including children. The constitution has several provisions correlated to the POCSO Act 2012 that guarantee and protect every child in the country.

The constitution promises individuals, including every child, the right to lead a life of dignity and the right to privacy under Article 21, the right to equality under Article 14, the right against discrimination under Article 15, and the right against exploitation under Articles 23 and 24. Specifically for children, it makes elementary education for children from ages 6 to 14 a fundamental right under Article 21A. Further, Article 39(f) under the DPSP obligates the state governments to make certain that equal opportunities and facilities are provided to children so as to enjoy their childhood and youth, free from any and all exploitation.

Importance and Need of the POCSO Act 2012

India, in its constitution, guarantees the protection of children by the state under Article 21 and other articles. India, being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, mandates the protection of children against all crimes against them. There was a persistent need as cases of sexual abuse against children were rising. These ever-expanding cases led to the need for comprehensive, streamlined, separate legislation that could provide a reliable system for mitigating the number of such offences and punishing the perpetrators. Prior to the POCSO Act 2012, the only child abuse legislation was the Goa Children’s Act, 2003. The POCSO Act has provided a robust justice mechanism for the victims of sexual abuse and has highlighted the significance of child rights and safety.

The Indian Penal Code, under some of its sections, addressed child sexual abuse, namely rape in Section 375, outraging modesty in Section 354, and unnatural offences under Section 377, but these measures had inadequacies and loopholes. This resulted in the introduction of a legislative reform specifically for child protection in India.

Provisions of the POCSO Act 2012

  • The two bodies in charge of monitoring and enforcing this law are the National Commission for the Protection of Children’s Rights (NCPCR) and the Standing Committee for the Protection of Children’s Rights (SCPCR).
  • The Act lays down the definition of a child, which is everyone under eighteen and covers children of all genders.
  • The Act stringently mentions that offences should be reported, evidence recorded, investigated, and tried with child-friendly mechanisms.
  • The Act provides provisions for hearing the child’s testimony in their home or another location of the child’s choosing, ideally by a female police investigator not under the level of sub-inspector.
  • The Act stringently prohibits that, under no circumstances, a child can be kept in a police station overnight.
  • The Act provides that interpreters should be present to avoid linguistic barriers. If the victimized child is impaired, a special instructor or someone acquainted with the child’s speech pattern should be present.
  • The Act states that the child’s statement should be documented exactly as it was said.
  • The act, as an extra measure, provides that the law enforcement officer should be dressed in casual clothes when documenting the children’s testimony.
  • The severity of the penalty and fee should be determined by the offence and the child’s mental health.
  • It establishes special courts for adjudication of such crimes. The trial should be dealt with the utmost priority and resolved within a year.
  • The Act prohibits aggressive interrogation or personal attacks on the child.
  • The Act states that the child’s physical examination must take place in the presence of the legal guardian or another individual to whom the child has faith and credibility.
  • The Act mentions that the Juvenile Court Commission and the Child Welfare Committee provide long and short-term therapy to the victimized child.

Check Out:- POCSO Act Pdf

Penalties under the POCSO Act 2012

  • Sexual assault that is penetrative in nature on a child under 16 years of age under Section 4 imposes a minimum of 20 years of imprisonment that may be extended up to imprisonment for the remainder of natural life and fine.
  • Sexual assault that is penetrative in nature on a child between 16 and 18 years of age under Section 4 imposes a minimum of 10 years of imprisonment that may be extended up to imprisonment for the remainder of natural life and fine.
  • Penetrative sexual assault that is aggravated in nature under Section 6 imposes a minimum of 20 years of rigorous imprisonment that may be extended to a life sentence and fine.
  • Sexual assault under Section 8 imposes 3 to 5 years of imprisonment and fine.
  • Aggravated sexual assault under Section 10 imposes 5 to 7 years of imprisonment and fine.
  • Sexual harassment under Section 12 imposes up to 3 years of imprisonment and fine.

Use of a child for pornography under Section 14 under Clause (1) imposes, upon the first conviction, that 5 years of imprisonment will be given. However, upon further convictions, the jail time can go up to 7 years plus fine. Use of a child for pornography while committing an offence under Section 3 in Clause (2) imposes a minimum of 10 years of imprisonment that may extend up to imprisonment for life and fine. Use of a child for pornography while committing an offence under Section 5 under Clause (3) imposes a rigorous imprisonment term for life and fine. Use of a child for pornographic purposes while committing an offence under Section 7 under Clause (4) imposes a 6 to 8-year imprisonment term and fine. Use of a child for pornographic purposes while committing an offence under Section 9 under Clause (5) imposes 8 to 10 years of imprisonment term and fine.

The offence of storing pornographic material involving a child for commercial purposes under Section 15 imposes a term of imprisonment that may extend up to 3 years and fine or both.

Shortcomings of the POCSO Act 2012

  • The Last Seen Theory application goes wrong. The theory can lead to wrongful conviction in several cases and needs to be applied with circumstantial evidence.
  • In child sexual abuse cases, a flawed investigation results from an unprepared investigation machinery due to being unfamiliar with the procedure.
  • There is a big gap of inadequacies in consensual sexual cases where there is sexual intercourse with the consent of the minor and the partner who is not a minor can be prosecuted under the POCSO Act, as the consent of a minor is not considered relevant under this Act.
  • The Act provides for the punishment of persons who file a false complaint in order to humiliate, extort, threaten, or defame another person. But the same act exempts a child from any such punishment, which opens a door to a loophole leading to misuse of the act.
  • There is a significant delay in filing charges due to a lack of adequate resources, delays in obtaining forensic evidence, or the complexity of the case.
  • The Act specifies that the Special Court shall complete the trial, as far as possible, within a period of one year from the date of taking cognizance of the offence under Section 35(2), on the contrary, concerning the number of pending cases that exist, creating a huge backlog of sexual abuse cases.
  • The Act provides for recording the statement of the affected child by a woman sub-inspector at the child’s residence or place of choice; on the contrary, there is considerably low representation of women in the police.
  • There are reports of lapses in the investigation and preservation of crime scenes in some cases.

POCSO Rules 2020

The government notified the POCSO Rules 2020 to introduce enhanced and deterrent punishments for child abuse, enabling the implementation of amendments to the Act:

Rule 9 of the POCSO Rules allows the Special Court to order interim compensation and special relief for the child’s needs related to relief or rehabilitation after the FIR’s registration. This compensation is adjusted against the final compensation, if any.

Under the POCSO Rules, the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) may recommend immediate payment for special relief and essential needs like food, clothes, and transportation, using funds from the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA), the District Child

Protection Unit (DCPU), or funds maintained under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. The payment must be made within a week of receiving the CWC’s recommendation.

The POCSO Rules empower thChild Welfare Committee (CWC) to provide a support person to assist the child throughout the investigation and trial process, ensuring a child-friendly process. This person is responsible for ensuring the child’s best interests, including physical, emotional, and mental well-being, access to medical care, counselling, and education. They also inform the child and their parents or guardians about the legal process, court proceedings and developments related to the case.

Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO Act) UPSC

Child sexual abuse in India is a concerning crime that goes unreported and is swiftly growing in society. The POCSO Act is an important topic to be covered from the perspective of the UPSC syllabus. The POCSO Act holds relevance in Indian Polity and is significant under laws and legal updates. For all the UPSC aspirants, it is advisable to go through the provisions of the act, amendments, and relevant case laws of the POCSO Act.


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What is a 'child' and age limit under Pocso act?

Under the Act, a child is defined as any person below the age of eighteen, penalizing any type of sexual relationship with a person below 18 years of age.

What is Section 12 of the Pocso Act?

Section 12 of the POCSO stipulates that whoever commits sexual harassment against a child shall be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to three years.

What is the full form of POCSO Act?

The full form of POCSO is Protection of Children from Sexual Offences.

What is Section 7 of POCSO Act?

As per Section 7 of the POCSO Act 2012, an individual who touches the private parts of a minor or does any other act with sexual intention is considered accused by the court under Section 7 and will be entitled to a minimum punishment of 3 years.

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