The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which provides the death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children, was passed in Lok Sabha on Thursday. It was passed by Rajya Sabha on July 29.
Replying to the debate on the Bill, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said there are 6.2 lakh names on the National Registry of Sex Offenders launched by the Centre last year, and 1,023 fast-track courts to try child sexual abuse cases are being set up across India under the Nirbhaya Fund.
She said fast-track courts would be set up in the next two years. “Eighteen states have already come forward to join hands with the Centre to set up these courts. Each court will be given Rs 75 lakh as administrative expenses,” she said.
The Bill was unanimously passed in the Lok Sabha in a rare show of consensus with the only exception being AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi, who opposed the death penalty clause. “Since in most of the cases child sexual assault is done by someone from within the family, the death penalty will make it very difficult for the victim to actually report the case. She will be under pressure from the family to not report it. I oppose the Bill,” he said.
When Ramya Haridas, Congress MP from Kerala, brought up the Unnao rape case, the treasury benches said the Congress was trying to score political points over a Bill that was being passed to protect children of the country.
Irani said that she has held meetings with several ministries over the issue of protection of children against sexual abuse. The Home Ministry will set up an online dashboard for monitoring sexual abuse cases, while the HRD Ministry will introducing teaching of “good touch, bad touch” in schools, she said.
Irani said the Bill aims at making offences against children gender-neutral. She said the Bill defines child pornography so that sexual predators indulging in such heinous crimes could be punished.
Participating in the debate, Thirunavukkarasar of the Congress suggested that since the Bill has a provision for the death penalty, it should be sent to a Parliamentary committee for further scrutiny.
DMK member Kanimozhi said the Bill should be sent to a select committee or standing committee as harsher punishment could deter people from reporting the crime.