Recently, an ordinance was promulgated by the President of India in regards to the amendments to be made in the penal laws. The amendments were brought in the wake of the atrocities committed on minor children in different parts of the country. One of the significant amendments is the imposition of death penalty for the culprits committing rape on children below 12 years of age.
The next question before the judiciary was the implementation of the same. It can be noticed that a Public Interest Litigation petition has already been filed by advocate Alok Srivastava. He filed the petition after horrific incident of rape of an 8-month girl child allegedly by her 28-year-old cousin on January 28 in a locality in New Delhi. He referred to the 2016 data of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and said only 11 per cent of the total of 1,01,326 POCSO cases have been decided by the trial courts in that year, which meant that 89 per cent of the cases were still pending across the country. One of his prayers before the Apex Court was that the sexual assault cases involving minors must be disposed of within six months.
On March 12, 2018, the Apex Court had directed the High Courts to collect and collate data regarding the pendency of cases under POCSO Act. On May 1, 2018, The Supreme Court of India issued guidelines to the various High Courts of India regarding the trial of sexual assault cases involving minors. The bench, comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice D Y Chandrachud, directed the High Courts to ensure that the above cases should be fast-tracked and decided by the special Courts. It also directed the High Courts to form a three-judge member committee to monitor and regulate the above cases. The Apex Court directed the High Courts to provide child-friendly Courts. The Supreme Court also ordered the state police chiefs to set up special task forces to ensure quick, effective investigation of cases filed under the POCSO Act and ensure that witnesses are produced at the time of the trial.
It can be inferred that the judiciary is playing a proactive role in the prevention of the crimes against minors. But there still remains some ambiguity over the amendments of the POCSO Act. The critics are advocating that the amended punishment will not have a deterrent effect on the criminals. The reason is the pendency of cases before the Courts. But we need to keep on thing in our mind that no legislation is perfect. It will also depend on the citizens to follow the law and prevent the crimes. People are not aware of the POCSO Act. The awareness must be spread among the children from the school level itself.