India’s landmark child abuse law

GS Paper - 2 (Social Issues)

Ten years after the enactment of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which deals specifically with child sexual abuse, an analysis of POCSO cases across India has found gaps in its implementation – including increasing pendency of cases and a high rate of acquittals.

What is POCSO, and why was it enacted in 2012?

  1. The Constitution of India has incorporated several provisions to protect the rights of children and India has also been a signatory to landmark international instruments, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, etc.,
  2. However, India lacked any dedicated provision against child sexual abuse. Cases would be tried under different provisions of the Indian Penal Code, which was found to be ill-equipped.
  3. In the 1990s, a child sexual abuse racket was busted in Goa, following which the state government enacted a law to promote child rights in 2003.
  4. Also, the Special Expert Committee under Justice VR Krishna Iyer presented a draft code for child rights in India – the Children’s Code Bill, 2000.
  5. These two initiatives established the basis for dedicated legislation against child sexual abuse. In 2005, the Department of Women and Child Development prepared a draft bill to address different offences targeted against children.
  6. The Study of Child Abuse, a 2007 report published by the Ministry of Women and Child Development covering 13 states with a sample size of 12,447 children, 2,324 young adults and 2,449 stakeholders, looked at different forms of child abuse and found that 50.76% of children surveyed reported having faced one or more form of sexual abuse.
  7. Contrary to the general perception then, the overall percentage of boys reporting experiencing sexual abuse was much higher than that of girls.
  8. In September 2010, the Ministry of Women and Child Development prepared a draft Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, 2010 which after several rounds of revisions came into force as the POCSO Act on Children’s Day – 14 November, 2012.

What are the key findings on crimes against children?

  1. The analysis has found that 43.44% of trials under POCSO end in acquittals while only 14.03% end in convictions. For every one conviction in a POCSO case, there are three acquittals.
  2. Acquittals are significantly higher than convictions for all the states studied. For instance, in Andhra Pradesh, acquittals are seven times more than convictions; and in West Bengal, acquittals are five times more than convictions. In Kerala, the gap between acquittal and conviction is not very high with acquittals constituting 20.5% of the total disposals and convictions constituting 16.49%.

 Narco test and polygraph test

GS Paper - 3 (Science and Technology)

A court in Saket, New Delhi, has allowed Delhi Police to conduct a narco test on Aaftab Poonawalla, the 28-year-old man accused of killing his 27-year-old live-in partner Shraddha Walkar in May this year. After police moved court seeking permission for the test, Poonawalla consented, telling the judge he was aware of the consequences.

What is a narco test?

  1. In a ‘narco’ or narcoanalysis test, a drug called sodium pentothal is injected into the body of the accused, which transports them to a hypnotic or sedated state, in which their imagination is neutralised.
  2. In this hypnotic state, the accused is understood as being incapable of lying, and is expected to divulge information that is true.
  3. Sodium pentothal or sodium thiopental is a fast-acting, short duration anaesthetic, which is used in larger doses to sedate patients during surgery.
  4. It belongs to the barbiturate class of drugs that act on the central nervous system as depressants.
  5. Because the drug is believed to weaken the subject’s resolve to lie, it is sometimes referred to as a “truth serum”, and is said to have been used by intelligence operatives during World War II.

Is this the same as a polygraph test?

  1. No. A polygraph test is based on the assumption that physiological responses that are triggered when a person is lying are different from what they would be otherwise.
  2. A polygraph test does not involved injecting drugs into the body; rather instruments like cardio-cuffs or sensitive electrodes are attached to the suspect, and variables such as blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration, change in sweat gland activity, blood flow, etc., are measured as questions are put to them.
  3. A numerical value is assigned to each response to conclude whether the person is telling the truth, is deceiving, or is uncertain.
  4. A test such as this is said to have been first done in the 19th century by the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso, who used a machine to measure changes in the blood pressure of criminal suspects during interrogation.
  5. Similar devices were subsequently created by the American psychologist William Marstron in 1914 and by the California police officer John Larson in 1921.

Are there no restrictions on putting accused through these tests?

  1. There is, indeed. In ‘Selvi & Ors vs State of Karnataka & Anr’ (2010), a Supreme Court Bench comprising then Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan and Justices R V Raveendran and J M Panchal ruled that no lie detector tests should be administeredexcept on the basis of consent of the accused”.
  2. Those who volunteer must have access to a lawyer, and have the physical, emotional, and legal implications of the test explained to them by police and the lawyer, the Bench said.
  3. It said that the ‘Guidelines for the Administration of Polygraph Test on an Accused’ published by the National Human Rights Commission in 2000, must be strictly followed. The subject’s consent should be recorded before a judicial magistrate, the court said.

Pratham receives the Indira Gandhi Prize for its educational efforts.

(GS 2- The Role of NGOs in development processes)

The 2021 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development was handed to Pratham, an NGO working in the field of education, by former vice president Hamid Ansari. The honour is given in appreciation of Pratham's efforts to provide the nation's children with high-quality education, notably during the epidemic.

More about the Prize

  1. According to Mr. Ansari, Pratham's efforts have been praised all around the world. He claimed that Pratham also provided education using digital technology so that students may continue their study while schools were closed due to the epidemic.
  2. Pratham CEO Rukmini Banerji remarked during her acceptance speech that the organisation supported community and family involvement in a child's development.Many of the lessons we have gained have come from the local community and youngsters, the woman stated.
  3. Sonia Gandhi, the Chairperson of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, stated during her speech that Indira Gandhi had left an irreparable mark on the nation. Even her detractors concur that Ms. Gandhi had a core personality trait that remained constant and characterised who she was and what she did.
  4. She continued to praise Pratham, saying, "It has done a lot to make school instruction more powerful and meaningful... It has sparked new ideas in teaching as well as monitoring and evaluating as a tool to enhance learning results.

About Pratham

  1. One of India's biggest non-governmental organisations is called Pratham. Madhav Chavan and Farida Lambay jointly founded it.
  2. It works to give impoverished children in India access to high-quality education. In order to give pre-school education to children living in slums, Pratham was founded in Mumbai in 1994.
  3. As of now, its interventions are spread across 23 Indian states and union territories, and it has supporting chapters in the US, the UK, Germany, Sweden, and Australia.