The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences, or POCSO, (Amendment) Bill, 2019, seeks to provide for stringent punishment to those engaging in sexual crimes against children, death penalty in cases of aggravated sexual assault, besides levying fines and imprisonment, to curb child pornography. The POCSO Bill proposes to protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensure their safety and dignity.
The Bill has been approved by the Parliament, the Rajya Sabha on July 29, 2019 and the Lok Sabha passed it on August 1, 2019.
Incidentally, a 22-year-old man was convicted under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act in a lower court for sexually harassing an 18-year-old girl. The accused approached a High Court challenging the lower court’s verdict. He claimed in court that the girl had already confessed to being in a relationship with him. When a young woman complains of sexual harassment, her age needs to be checked. Since the young woman had consented to the physical relationship, the harassment allegations can not apply to her.
During the hearing of the case, Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, in his significant observation, said that if there is physical consent of both parties, then only the man should not be blamed. This allegation cannot be brought against men alone as there are differences in the physical constitution of men and women.
The judge further commented, “The mental state of the accused in the case of sexual harassment against someone, Maturity and past events need to be examined. This is important for both the accused and the complainant.”
“The POCSO law should not be used to marry someone else,” the judge said. The court cannot sit with its eyes closed without understanding the reality. The cause of the incident needs to be known. If the complainant has to prove that she is a minor, then she has to know about her age, emotional consequences, and the surrounding situation.” According to the POCSO Act, if someone is 18 years and 364 days old, then a case will be filed under the POCSO Act. But is there any difference in the maturity of a person who is one day older than that age i.e. 18 years old? After learning that both the plaintiff and the accused were currently living separately, the court dismissed the charge against the youth under Section 37 of the Indian Penal Code, saying that Section 37 would be effective only if the plaintiff was forced to reconcile against her will.