The Bombay high court on Friday granted anticipatory bail to a Pune based man who had been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The accused was alleged to have torn off clothes of a minor girl during a scuffle. However, the high court noted that said provisions of the law are applicable only when a child is harassed with sexual intent.
The accused was booked on the basis of a 17-year-old girl’s complaint on August 1. After reading the FIR by the parties in the matter against each other, Justice Bharati Dangre noted that there was petty rivalry between the two families.
While granting pre-arrest bail to the accused, Justice Dangre said,
In order to attract the provisions of the POCSO Act, 2012, it is necessary to commit an act of harassment with sexual intent.
Dangre said on account of some petty reasons, there was verbal altercation over some trivial issues. It aggravated and resulted into a scuffle, added Dangre.
The Kerala High Court has recently issued detailed guidelines for investigation and trial of POCSO cases, including special training to officers so they are sensitised in dealing with such sensitive cases. The court has also asked for all nodal agencies dealing with such cases to undergo proper briefing and training. The court’s effort was in an effort to prevent further victimisation of victims during the process.
In March this year, the Centre has notified a set of new rules enabling implementation of the recent amendments to the POCSO Act under which provisions of punishment for child abuse have been made more stringent.
Some significant addition in the rules include provision of mandatory police verification of school and care home staff, procedures to report sexual abuse material such as pornography and imparting age-appropriate child rights education.
Regarding crackdown on child pornography, the rules state that
Any person who has received any pornographic material involving a child or any information regarding such pornographic material being stored, possessed, distributed, circulated, transmitted, facilitated, propagated or displayed, or is likely to be distributed, facilitated or transmitted in any manner shall report the contents to the special juvenile police unit (SJPU) or police, or the cybercrime portal.
The rules further state:
The report shall include details of the device in which such pornographic content was noticed and the suspected device from which such content was received including the platform on which the content was displayed.
Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Rules, 2020, state governments have been asked to formulate a child protection policy based on the principle of “zero-tolerance” to violence against children.
However, we do often see that these provisions are being misused to settle family or relationship scores. The courts must have strictest punishments for the offenders, but in the same way they must convict false accusers as well.