X
Categories: Opinion

Child rape will now be treated as a criminal act that meets the test of ‘rarest of rare’

4 weeks ago

High acquittal rates, high drop-out rates due to delayed court procedures, and an absurdly lenient sentence in child rape cases is a travesty of justice.

I welcome the Amended POCSO ordinance that ensures the death penalty for those who commit crimes against children

Four years ago, in 2014, in trying to help a young couple, I was exposed to the tragic issue of crimes against children. The young couple was devastated and shattered because their young child aged around two to three years was raped in a very up-market, expensive pre-school.

Soon, I was struggling along with the parents — first to register the case, then to get the investigation to progress, and finally for a chargesheet and prosecution. The system of police, prosecutors and courts was slow and sluggish — driven by lack of empathy and, more than that, ill-equipped with the requisite knowledge, training and tools.

That first case drags on even today, despite entering our criminal justice system as a POCSO case over three years ago — testing the patience of the parents and the child, who are forced into a hostile court environment regularly as part of this process.

No wonder then that parents drop out and few cases complete the prosecution process; thus the very low conviction rates. And amid all this, the government of Karnataka has done nothing and, tragically, more children have become victims. High acquittal rates, high drop-out rates due to delayed court procedures, and an absurdly lenient sentence is a travesty of justice. It shows how difficult it gets for any family to deal with the problem. Every data and statistic that I analyse today points to this being a huge problem.

Through these four years, I have realised what a horror it is to have a child go through the trauma of such an assault, and the pain that scars not just the child but their entire family.

These crimes are a violation of the child’s right to a safe childhood and the worst forms of cruelty. They need to be treated as a criminal act that meets the test of ‘rarest of rare’. If we are to make India a country safe for children, we need to agree to a zero-tolerance mindset to criminals that harm them.

Given the clear and present danger that child sexual offenders represent to children, and that our system is slow and sluggish due to years of apathy,  the only solution here and now is severe deterrence. Creating a new normal with the death penalty as punishment for sexual crimes against children aged under 12 is precisely that deterrent.

In February 2017, I had organised a national-level consultation on the POCSO Act, with representatives from the government, judiciary, executive, child-support groups, doctors, lawyers, NGOs involved in child safety. In August, I came up with a summary of the outcome of the consultation, and handed over a detailed report titled ‘Recommendations to Combat Child Sexual Abuse’ to women and child development (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi.

In that report, I had urged the minister and the WCD ministry to amend the POCSO Act to:

• Bring in the harshest of punishments for child molesters.
• Make speedy investigation and trial mandatory.
• Deny bail, exclude provisions for anticipatory bail.
• Strengthen the courts, prosecution, and forensic labs.
• Introduce one-stop centres.
• Provide victim assistance.
• Compile a national database (a child sex offender registry).

Many of these recommendations have been covered in the ordinance that has been approved by the Cabinet. I’m pleased that the effort has made some difference in the fight to protect India’s children.

Children look to adults with trust and we must do whatever it takes to #ProtectOurChildren. Justice for the victims of child sexual abuse is must and non-negotiable. No punishment would be too severe for those who perpetrate such cruelty on an innocent child. The purpose of punishment under legal jurisprudence includes retribution, deterrence and incapacitation, which is why I welcome the ordinance passed by the Narendra Modi government.

I have no doubt that this deterrent will help us protect our children while simultaneously improving the capacity and responsiveness of police, prosecutors and courts.

The ordinance is a first step alright, but a giant one in the fight to protect our children.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar is Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP.

Read more: Death penalty ordinance is a reactive and disproportionate response to child rape

Tags: Child rapeDeath penaltyKathuaManeka GandhiPOCSO ordinance

View Comments

  • I agree entirely. The columnist deserves praise for the tenacity with which he has pursued this issue as an MP. So much more sensitive than a central minister who has said that we should not make a fuss over one or two rapes in such a big country.

  • News reports say that Union Cabinet cleared the Ordinance on 21 April , 2018 , providing for death penalty to convicts of raping a minor girl below age of 12 besides some more stringent provisions in favor of girls under 16 years. President of India has signed the Ordinance on 22 April for promulgation. While the measure is alright , society must introspect as to how psychological or moral degradation in society , though not widespread , has come about and identify remedial measures. After all , we take pride in our glorious and high moral past. However , it can be said that the malady has definitely psychological connection and to that extent , it may be apt to bring in the related alert in this Vedic astrology writer’s article - “ Astrologically speaking , some highlights for India in coming year 2018” -
    theindiapost.com , also at wionews.com last year on 19 October , 2017. The related text in the article reads as :-
    “ (1). Mid-March to 31 May 2018…………… The existing psychological cases may need upgraded expertise or there may be discernible increase in such like new cases during the year necessitating expansion of related infrastructure”. Something of the kind was also implied in para (3) of the article , reproduced here as :-
    “ (3). The year 2018 looks to be bringing to focus themes of political , religious or spiritual nature for a heightened or sharp analysis or discussion. Such analysis or discussion could also pave way for new enactments ….. having far reaching significance or value covering issues related to women”.
    http://www.windowtonews.com/news.php?id=95576&cat_id=7&p=&search=