July 25, 2019 12:39:38 am
The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday unanimously passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which provides for the death penalty for aggravated sexual assaults against children and includes stricter provisions on the circulation of child pornography.
Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani thanked members for their cooperation and also moved an amendment in deference to their wishes, urging state governments to be mindful of the condition of juvenile homes as pointed out by MPs.
She said the government will set up 1,023 fast track courts, which would specially deal with cases under the POCSO Act.
“Recognising that justice delayed is justice denied, the government has sanctioned 1,023 fast track courts, particularly to be made for dispensing cases which were pending under POCSO,” she said.
The minister also spoke on the growing number of such cases and lauded the support from members cutting across party lines. “What we touch today is just a tip of the iceberg as many cases are swept under the carpets,” she said.
The minister’s reference was to Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien’s experience of being molested in a Kolkata bus as a teenager. The Trinamool leader earlier recalled his experience in the House to stress that awareness could be raised and incidents prevented only by talking about trauma. “I urge MPs across party lines should come out and talk. Actors, celebrities, all should talk so that children get the message that it is okay to talk about it,” O’Brien said.
Congress MP Amee Yagnik demanded that the Bill should be sent to a Select Committee, pointing out that conviction rate for sexual assault against children currently stands at 20 per cent and there was a need to seek inputs from various stakeholders for a stronger law.
Her party colleague Vandana Chavan mentioned the high pendency in courts and said that courts are not equipped to be either child-friendly or to make the child comfortable to seek testimony.
Congress member Vivek Tankha said stringent provisions are not stopping such incidents and said the National Crime Records Bureau has no data on offences against children after 2016.
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