Union Cabinet clears death penalty under POCSO Act

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act 2012, including the introduction of the death penalty in cases of aggravated sexual offences and penal provisions aimed at clamping down on child pornography.

“The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the Amendments in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act, 2012. It will make punishment more stringent for committing sexual crimes against children including death penalty. The amendments also provide for levy of fines and imprisonment to curb child pornography,” said Union minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar.

The amendments, first cleared by the Cabinet in 2018, were introduced as a bill in the Lok Sabha in February but couldn’t be passed because of the announcement of elections shortly after. The Cabinet has now cleared these again.

Among others, the amendments seek to award the death penalty in cases of aggravated penetrative sexual assault of children, making it gender neutral. The amendments also bring in a section to penalise the possession of child pornography with up to three years in jail.

The amendments, 14 in all, also include the introduction of some new sections which aim to make punishments for crimes against children, including digital offences, more stringent. These include amendments to sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Act to increase punishment from seven to 10 years, from 10 to 20 years and from 20 to life imprisonment and death.

Additionally, amendments to sections 14 and 15 of the Act aim to regulate child pornography, by proposing punishments ranging from a fine of ₹1000 to imprisonment for up to seven years for storing, not deleting or reporting, and producing child pornography for commercial purposes.

The amendments also penalise the transmission of pornographic material to children and proposes a synchronising of this with the IT Act.

The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age.The act is gender neutral.

According to a government statement, the amendment is expected to discourage the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent due to strong penal provisions incorporated.

Enakshi Ganguly of the HAQ Centre for Child Rights said, “The death penalty does not necessarily mete out justice, but rightful conviction has shown to bring down these number of cases. The capital punishment will, inversely, endanger more lives .”

First Published:
Jul 10, 2019 23:58 IST

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