Sexual Harassment Current Affairs - 2019

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Law Ministry to set up fast track courts after data on POCSO from HCs

The data from the High Courts across the country say that more than 96% of 1,66,882 rape trials registered under POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) are pending. After receiving the data, law ministry has drawn comprehensive plans to fast track disposal of pending rape cases within a year. The plan is to set up fast track courts to hasten the process.

Highlights

The aim of the fast track courts is to dispose the cases within 1 year. So far there are 1,66,882 cases that are registered as rape cases and 1,60,989 cases registered under Pocso Act. The government of India is also planning to propose similar fast track courts under the 15th Finance Commission (2020-25).

The law ministry will set up 1,023 fast track court to complete the pending cases. The data from the HC says that there are around 389 districts all over the country where the number of cases under POCSO act exceeded 100.

The Ministry had earlier directed state governments and union territories to set up fast track courts for POCSO cases. Under the order around 218 such courts were set up in UP. The information was given in the Lok Sabha on December 6, 2019.

Issue

POCSO act mandates that the investigation of cases registered under the act has to be completed within a time span of 2 months. In spite of such strict law and policy framework, the number of rape and POCSO cases have increased.

Parliament passes Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Parliament passed Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to provide stricter punishments for child sex abuse. It was first passed by Rajya Sabha on July 24, 2019 and then by Lok Sabha on August 1, 2019. The Bill amends Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012 which provides legal framework to protect children from offences such as sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography.

Salient Features of Bill

Penetrative sexual assault: The bill increases minimum punishment for this offence from 7 years to 10 years. It also provides for with imprisonment between 20 years to life, with fine if person commits penetrative sexual assault on child below age of 16 years.

Aggravated penetrative sexual assault: The Bill adds two more grounds to definition of aggravated penetrative sexual assault. These include: (i) assault resulting in death of child and (ii) assault committed during natural calamity or in any similar situations of violence. It also increases minimum punishment from 10 years to 20 years, and maximum punishment to death penalty.

Aggravated sexual assault: The Bill adds two more offences to definition of aggravated sexual assault. These include: (i) assault committed during natural calamity and (ii) administrating or help in administering any chemical substance or any hormone to child for the purpose of attaining early sexual maturity.

Child Pornography: The Bill defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct that involves child such as photograph, video, digital or even computer generated image indistinguishable from actual child. It also enhances punishments for certain offences related to child pornography.

Storage of pornographic material: It increases punishment for storage of pornographic material with imprisonment between three to five years, or fine, or both. In addition, it also adds two other offences for storage of pornographic material involving children. These include: (i) transmitting, displaying, distributing such material except for the purpose of reporting it and (ii) failing to destroy or delete or report pornographic material involving child.