Months after Haryana hit the headlines with the cases of sexual abuse of the inmates of a shelter home,it is neighbouring Punjab that has taken lead in adopting the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act notified by the central government on June 20.
However,it may take some time before Punjab,and even Haryana,can implement the Act,which provides for life in jail to those abusing anyone under the age of 18 years. For the purpose of the Act,anyone under 18 years of age will be considered a child.
The Act,which aims to protect children from sexual harassment and pornography among other things,provides for creation of special courts for trial of such offences.
Punjab has already received a copy of the Act with a demi-official letter of Union Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath.
Principal secretary (women and child development) TR Sarangal said the Act is being studied and a proposal for its implementation will be sent to the cabinet. It is yet to be decided if we will adopt the Act as it is and frame our own rules or devise a new Act on the subject weaving in the local conditions, he said.
Other than laying down rules to punish child sex offenders,the Act specifically provides for stringent punishment for persons who,being on the management or staff of a home,such acts. Similarly,the punishment for government officials,including policemen,found indulging in such acts has also been made stricter. In the wake of what happened in Haryana,this is a welcome addition, Sarangal said.
Haryana,however,is yet to receive a copy of the Act. We have not got a copy from the centre. However,we recently made several policy changes in the manner in which the NGOs are running child protection homes, said Sumita Mishra,secretary,women and child development,Haryana.
The Act,as notified by the Centre,will complement the implementation of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,2000,which is the primary law to deal with the children in need of care and protection as well as children in conflict with law.
The courts designated under the Juvenile Justice Act,can be notified as special courts to try cases under the new Act,which also lays down in detail the manner in which a child,who is a victim of a sexual act,is to be treated by the police. His or her statements can be recorded only at his or her house,preferably by a woman police official not lower than the rank of a sub-inspector.