The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences, or POCSO, (Amendment) Bill, 2019, seeks to provide for stringent punishment to those engaging in sexual crimes against children, death penalty in cases of aggravated sexual assault, besides levying fines and imprisonment, to curb child pornography.
The POCSO Bill proposes to protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensure their safety and dignity. The Bill has been approved by Parliament — the Rajya Sabha on July 29, 2019 and the Lok Sabha passed it on August 1, 2019.
The POCSO Bill, 2019, was moved for consideration and passage by Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani. She said the Bill provided for levying fines and imprisonment to curb child pornography.
The Bill seeks to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, which is a comprehensive law to protect the children from offences of sexual assault, harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interests of the child at every stage of the judicial process by incorporating child-friendly mechanisms for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and speedy trial of offences through designated special courts.
The POCSO Amendment Bill provides for stringent punishments for other crimes against all those below 18 years of age. The POCSO Bill also aims at making offences against children ‘gender neutral’.
The POCSO Bill seeks to award strong punishment in cases of drugs being administered to children to bring about early sexual maturity. Speaking on the Bill, Irani said the legislation introduced a minimum jail term of 20 years or for the entire life and death penalty in rare cases according to the courts' discretion.
According to Irani, around 620,000 sexual offenders were listed in the national database and they were being tracked by investigative agencies. She also expressed concern that the number of juvenile perpetrators of crimes was increasing. The minister also gave the suggestion of MPs that POCSO cases be taken up at district-level meetings.
Cutting across party lines, members supported amendments to the POCSO Act, but some of them demanded that Bill be referred to a standing committee or a select committee as it made certain offences punishable with death.