Error corrected: On interpreting POCSO Act
- The Supreme Court has done well to correct an egregious error of interpretation committed by a judge in the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court in holding that sexual assault on a child victim would require “skin-to-skin” contact.
- It has set aside two judgments that acquitted two offenders against children from the graver charge of sexual assault, even while sentencing them to short prison terms for lesser offences
- The High Court had construed Section 7 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, pertaining to sexual assault on children, in such a way that it concluded that the acts for which the accused were charged did not amount to sexual assault.
- The Supreme Court showed alacrity and sensitivity in staying the portions of the judgment related to the diluted interpretation earlier this year. In one case, the act of groping a 12-year-old girl’s breast over her dress and, in another, the acts preparatory to an assault on a five-year-old were proved in the trial.
- Even after accepting these facts, the absence of physical contact with the girl’s body part was used to absolve the accused of the charge of sexual assault.
- In the second case, the Court took a lenient view that the act of “holding the hands of the prosecutrix” and “opening the zip of the pant” did not fit into the definition of sexual assault.
- The judgment sets right not only a misinterpretation of the statute but also underscores that the core ingredient of a sexual offence is the “sexual intent” behind it.
Who comes under Pocso act?
- It is a gender-neutral law
- By defining a child as 'any person' below the age of 18 years, the POCSO Act sets a gender-neutral tone for the legal framework available to child sexual abuse victims.
- Consequently, a child of any gender who has been sexually wronged has access to the remedies provided under the act.
Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO)
- The POCSO Act was established in the year 2012 to specifically deal with sexual offences committed against children.
- It includes offences like sexual assault, sexual harassment, and child pornography.
- The Act also lays down provisions to establish special courts for the trial of such offences and matters related to them.
- A special feature of this Act is that it is gender-neutral and recognizes that boys can be victims of sexual violence as well.
- Here, a child is described as a person under the age of 18 years. The Act aims to provide protection to the child throughout the judicial process.