IS CHANGE SYNONYMOUS TO DEVELOPMENT?
By- Adrita Bhuyan, a 5th-year B.A.LL.B (Hons) student at National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam.
Crimes against women and children have increased rapidly despite the presence of legislative precedents. Several attempts have been made to understand and thereby consecutively reduce the increasing rates of crime, but the number of cases reported has not reduced. Though the prime concern is not on the basis of the reported number of crimes because of the fact that cases are reported means that people have an opportunity to avail legal advice, unlike previous instances. As per the crime rate, both heinous and petty have been highest in Delhi, but this data does not cover the crimes conducted by children. With the change in economic structure, family relations, and growing poverty, crimes conducted by children have also increased rapidly. It is often difficult to explain the probable reason behind crimes conducted by children but the best possible reason would be survival. Recently, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO, 2012) was amended with the introduction of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (POCSO), 2019 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development on the month of July with several amendments. Most of the amendments were a process to increase the punishments awarded with several offences attached in the previous act especially with the enforcement of the death penalty. It was very pertinently stated by Vivek K. Tankha, Leader of Congress that he is overwhelmed and welcomes the bill but also highlights that stringent provisions will not reduce the incidents.
DISCUSSIONS AND DELIBERATIONS
After the Nirbhaya case, which questioned the integrity and safety of women around the country, that resulted in various alterations to the criminal laws in India but despite such alterations, the rates of crime have not reduced. Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani had stated that the prime reason for the introduction of the bill is to ensure that justice is delivered to every single child in the country. Though the legislature and the judiciary have attempted to make the justice delivery system systematic and child friendly but at the end of the road, the term justice depends on the interpretation of the parties concerned. The 2019 amendment act has increased punishments for several offences with special importance with the introduction of the death penalty for the utilization of child pornographic that results in aggravated penetrative sexual assault. Apart from this particular provision, there are no provisions which announce the death penalty for any particular offence. Through observations, it can be deduced that the 2019 amendment bill will mainly increase the punishments for offences such as usage of children for pornographic purposes, penetrative sexual assault, sexual assault, and aggravated sexual assault with minimal alterations in the primary text of the document. The legislative discussions on justice delivery could be observed in this particular provision, but it has to noted that the delivery of justice can not be successfully achieved by an increase in punishment awarded. It is necessary that not only the punishment is stringent in the legislation but the basic development of the affected child should be a major concern. A very important aspect that has not been addressed in the legislation is the rehabilitation of affected the child in society after the offence is proved in the court of law. Even after punishment is awarded, the delivery of justice might not be complete as the child has undergone severe mental and physical stress after the incident. Thereby, it is very necessary for the legislators to introduce provisions of rehabilitation of children into society.
With the accessibility of internet facilities, the world community has been subjected to heinous crimes against children. In most cases, the victim child is unaware of the impact or the situation at hand. While some countries consider pornography as mere freedom to expression of speech but child pornography is considered illegal in nature. This is mainly related to the age of a minority of a child to be not sensible enough to take a decision on their sexuality. Apart from POCSO, 2012, and 2019 amendment bill, the Information Technology Act, 2000 also deals with child pornography which awards imprisonment up to three years with a fine of five lakh rupees in the first conviction. The punishment increases in the subsequent conviction of the same offence under the provision. In a recent study by the National Human Rights Commission, it was observed that teenage girls are preferred for the purpose of child pornography by the traffickers. Bihar is also on the list of states which has a considerable rate of child pornography. Thereby, while the internet has made livelihood easy for mankind, o the other hand traffickers have been using it for criminal activities. The enactment of legislation with strict punishment might curtain such activities by the traffickers but as per previous observations even after the presence of stringent punishments, the rates o0f crimes against children have not reduced. The 2019 amendment bill introduces the penalisation of the storage of pornographic material for commercial purposes with punishment for 3 years or fine or both in some instances. The bill also added two particular offences in relation to child pornography. Firstly, as per Section 15(1) a person must not fail to delete or destroy or report to the authorities of pornographic material and secondly, there should be an absence of transmission of such material.
Foremost, the definition of development alters according to the convenience and understanding of the parties. Often development differs according to the income and other essential factors such as social structure, legal reformations, etc. Change is the only constant matter in the fast-moving world. Change is the road to development in most cases, though in certain cases change may not be synonymous with development. The POCSO, 2019 suggests several alterations in the punishments for several offences. As per observations, there is no indirect relation between increasing stringent punishments and a decrease in crime rates related to children. The discussion on the functioning and effectiveness of retributive justice has been prevalent since time immemorial. Thereby, as this the accepted form of justice adopted in the majority, our prime responsibility is to ensure that it is a practice to deliver justice to the maximum number of people concerned, so as to reduce the number of offenders in the future. Childhood is the best part of human life. Thereby, legislators have to ensure while formulating legislation that rather it is punishments or reformations should preserve the essence of childhood.
POCSO (Amendment) Bill approved with death penalty provision, News Services Division, All India Radio, 1st August, 2019. Section 6(1), POCSO Bill, 2019 Section 67 of Information, Techonology Act, 2000 Supra 1
(Disclaimer- The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Child Rights Centre.)