POCSO: Why cases of child sexual abuse mostly end in acquittal
Context- why cases of child sexual abuse mostly end in acquittal.
Introduction- 1.only 18.49 per cent of people accused of child sexual abuse under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act were found guilty by courts in the capital in the first half of 2016.
2. The Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) said the conviction rate “leaves an unsavoury image of the way the criminal justice system is being administered in Delhi, and creates alarm in the mind of the general public that child victims of rape and sexual offences are not getting justice”
- In 2014, the conviction rate in POCSO cases was 16.33 per cent, while 2015 saw a conviction rate of 19.65 per cent.
-Issues-1.Hostility of convicts- in most acquittals, it was found that the prosecutrix (the alleged victim) — considered the ‘sterling witness’ in court parlance — had turned hostile. Simply put, the testimony of the alleged victim was found to contradict the legal position of the prosecution.
A report by the National Law School Bangalore, which analysed 667 judgments between 2013 and 2015, shed light on this phenomenon. It stated that alleged victims turned hostile in 67.5% cases, and testified against the accused in only 26.7% cases.
2. Once a POCSO case is filed, the long-winded proceedings give the accused ample time to try and pressure the victims or their families to backtrack on their complaints. The situation is even more complicated when the accused is a family member.
the conviction rate drops even further in this case.
3. A majority of these victims are from the lower economic strata, so they are more vulnerable to pressure.
What could be solution to this problem-1. National Law School study, which included police and public prosecutors, suggested that children need to be separated from the family in cases where the alleged perpetrator is a family member.
2. children should be kept in a shelter home until the trial.
3.However decision of keeping childrens should be taken on a case-to-case basis, keeping in mind the principle of best interest.
Besides, considering the pathetic condition of children’s homes, children would prefer to return to their homes.
Other challenges-1. Perjury rules don’t apply to children, which makes them open to exploitation.
2. Under POCSO, consent does not matter. Some of the cases are romantic in nature, so the statement of the victim is bound to be in favour of the accused.
3. The POCSO Act was enacted in 2012 to protect children from sexual assault, harassment and pornography. The Act also mandated setting up of special courts, where such cases can be tried expeditiously. Every stage of the judicial process was intended to be child-friendly — this hasn’t exactly happened.
Way forward-1. There needs to be clear coordination between victims and prosecutors.
2. We have minimum facilities and are not equipped to speak to victims. There is no separate room for their visit.
3.If a prosecutor gets enough time to take the victims into confidence, the process can be shortened.
4. More facilities and resources are needed for the prosecution department.
5.Special courts for the cases and police investigation should be efficient.
6.Reduce the delay in forensic reports.
7. The rationalisation of work should be considered by the High Court, which should set a benchmark that judges deal.
8. There should be a committee to look for the most vulnerable — places from where most cases are coming. Accordingly, there should be awareness, education, and policing.
9.Many POCSO cases are from JJ clusters and resettlement colonies, so there is a need for multi-pronged strategies.