1.9 Lakh POCSO Cases Pending in Fast Track Courts: Ministry of Women and Child Development
On December 16, 2022, during the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament, Lok Sabha Members Shrimati Kavitha Malothu (TRS), Shri Prathap Simha (BJP), Shri Venkatesh Netha Borlakunta (TRS), Dr. G. Ranjith Reddy (TRS), Shri L.S. Tejasvi Surya (BJP), Shri Sanganna Amarappa (BJP) and Dr. Umesh G. Jadhav (BJP) raised the question whether the Government evaluated/reviewed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act's implementation status in terms of the rise in instances reported under the Act year after year and the specifics of the remedial actions implemented.
The Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Zubin Irani, responded to the abovementioned question by informing the Lok Sabha that children are protected from sexual abuse under the POCSO Act, which was passed by the Indian government in 2012. Any person under the age of 18 is considered a minor according to the act. The POCSO Act of 2012 calls for the creation of Special Courts in order to guarantee a swift trial. With a view to deterring the perpetrators and preventing such crimes against children, the Act was further changed in 2019 to add harsher punishment, including the death penalty, for committing sexual crimes on children. The Ministry also proclaimed that the POCSO Rules, 2020, further safeguard children from exploitation, violence, and sexual exploitation.
The members of Lok Sabha furthered asked about the details of cases of POCSO that are registered, under-investigation, under-trial or sub-judice since the implementation of the Act, year and State/UT-wise. The government then provided the data maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau. As per the data provided-
Source: Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 1835
*Cases Registered (CR), Total Cases For Investigation Incl. Pending Cases(TCI), Cases Charge sheeted(CCS),Total Cases Disposed off By Police (Cdop),Cases Pending Investigation At End Of The Year (CPIEY),Total Cases For Trial (CFT),Cases Convicted (CON), Conviction Rate (CVR), Cases Disposed Off By Courts (CDBC), Cases Pending Trial At End Of The Year (CPTEY), Persons Arrested (PAR), Persons Charge Sheeted (PCS), Persons Convicted (PCV) Under Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act During 2014-2021.
As is evident from the figures in the table above, the cases registered has seen a steady rise since 2014 until 2021 and so have the numbers in cases pending trial. While 52,308 cases were pending in 2014, more than 2 lakh cases were pending by the end of 2021 which is a massive number! Also the conviction rate has been more or less steady since 2014 at around 30%
In the following table, we have accumulated the highest and lowest number of cases registered, cases for trial, conviction rate and cases pending state-wise, over the years.
Source: Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 1835
The detailed answer can be read here.
As can be seen from the data provided above, the number of POCSO cases registered have been increasing over the years. When the government was asked about the reasons for the increase in number of pending cases along with the efforts made to bring down the same, the government provided that since October 2019, the Department of Justice has been putting into action a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to establish 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSC), including 389 exclusive POCSO Courts (e-POCSO), to handle open rape and POCSO Act cases. The plan was to implement the program in 31 States and UTs. The FTSCs were intended to be established for a period of one year, but the Cabinet has approved extending the program for a further two years (until March 2023) with a total expenditure of Rs. 1572.86 cr., of which the Central Share of Rs. 971.70 cr. will come from the Nirbhaya Fund. A total of 1,24,000 cases have been resolved by 733 FTSCs, including 413 exclusive POCSO Courts, as of October 31, 2022. More than 1,93,000 cases are currently outstanding in these FTSCs.
Brief about the POCSO Act: The POCSO Act, also known as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act of 2012, is gender-neutral and recognizes that both any child, irrespective of their gender, can be a survivor of sexual abuse. The Act significantly broadened the definition of what constitutes a sexual offense against a child and imposes harsh punishments for each of the acts enumerated. Additionally, it strengthened the definition of sexual assault to encompass both moderate and severe penetrative assault, along with non-penetrative assaults, and additional sanctions for people in positions of trust or power, such as government workers, faculty, and police officers.
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