A Glimpse of the POCSO Act, 2012
-- SAMARJIT HAWAIBAM, Addl. Public Prosecutor, (High Court), Manipur --

With the rising sexual offences against children, it was felt that the crime has not been adequately addressed by the existing laws in India. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 was therefore enacted to deal with child sexual abuse. The Act and the Rules came into effect from 14th November, 2012. It was intended to be a comprehensive special law to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography, etc. The Act was intended to enforce the right of all children to safety, security and protection from sexual abuse and exploitation. Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children are heinous crimes that need to be effectively addressed. Offences under the Act are dealt with by the designated Special Courts.

Offences covered under the POCSO Act

Various offences are defined and their punishments prescribed under Chapter II of the POCSO Act such as sexual harassment, Sexual Assault, Aggravated Sexual Assault, penetrative sexual assault and aggravated penetrative sexual assault.

Who is a Child? Section 2 (d)

The Child is defined in S. 2(d) of the POCSO Act as a person below the age of 18 years.

Duty to report offence Section 19

Under Section 19 of the POCSO Act any person (including the child) who has apprehension that an offence under the Act is likely to be committed or has knowledge that such an offence has been committed is bound to provide such information to the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local Police.

Any person who fails to report the commission of an offence is punishable with imprisonment of either description which may extend to 6 months or with fine or with both. A person whose duty is to record such offence after being reported, if fails to record the same, is equally liable with the same punishment as provided under S.21 of the POCSO Act.

Presumption of Guilt: Section 29

Under the Indian criminal law a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. But under the POCSO Act, there is presumption of guilt as provided under S.29 of the Act. The accused is presumed guilty of having committed or abetted or attempted to commit the offence if the offences charged are those offences defined under S.3 (penetrative sexual assault), S.5 (aggravated penetrative sexual assault), S.7(sexual assault) or S.9(Aggravated sexual assault). The Act therefore, provides for reverse burden of proof.

Liability for false Complaint: Section 22

To prevent misuse and abuse of the provisions of the POCSO Act, it is provided under S. 22 of the Act that any person who makes a false complaint or provides false information solely with the intention to humiliate, extort or threaten or defame another person shall be punished with imprisonment for 6 months and fine.

Obligation and Role of the Media: Sections 20 & S.23

Any personnel of the media on coming across any material or object which is sexually exploitative of the child through the use of any medium is obligated to provide such information to the Special Juvenile Police Unit or to the local police.

The report in any media shall not disclose the identity of the child including his name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighborhood or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of the identity of the child. The publisher or owner of the media shall be jointly and severally liable for the act or omission of his employee. Any person who contravenes these provisions shall be liable for imprisonment up to six months which may extend to one year along with fine.

Recording of the Statement of a Child: Section 24

The Act provides that the statement of a child should be recorded at the residence of the child or at a place where he usually resides or at the place of his choice. As far as practicable the statement should be recorded by a woman Police officer not below the rank of Sub-Inspector.(S.24) It is also provided that the Police Officer while recording the statement of the child shall not be in uniform. [S.24(2)]

Punishment for abetment of offence Section 17

Section 17 of the Act provides that whoever abets any offence under the Act, if committed in consequence of the abetment shall be punished with the punishment provided for the offence.

Speedy Disposal Section 35(2)

Section 35 (2) of the Act mandates that the Special Court shall complete the trial, as far as possible within a period of one year from the date of cognizance of the offence.

Child not to see accused at time of testifying and proceedings to be held in camera : Sections 36 & 37

It is provided in S.36 of the Act that the child should not be exposed to the accused in any way to the accused at the time of recording of evidence. Ta the same time it should be ensured that the accused is in a position to hear the statement of the child and communicate with his advocate. The Special Court may record the statement of a child through video conferencing or by utilising single visibility mirrors or curtains or any other device.

S.37 of the Act provides that the Special Court shall try cases in camera and in the presence of the parents of the child or any other person in whom the child has trust or confidence.

Public awareness about the Act Section 43

The Central Government and every State Government is obligated to take all measures to ensure that the provisions of the Act are given wide publicity through media including the television, radio and the print media at regular intervals to make the general public, children as well as their parents and guardians aware of the provisions of the Act. The Officers of the Central Government and the State Government and others including Police Officers are to be imparted periodic training on the matters relating to the implementation of the provisions of the Act.

Monitoring of implementation of the Act

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights are to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the Act as prescribed under the Rules, such as monitoring the designation of Special Courts by the State Government, appointment of Special Public Prosecutors, formulation of guidelines for the use of NGOs, Professionals and experts, modules for training of Police personnel etc.


Under Rule 7 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2012 the Special Court may, in appropriate cases, on its own or on an application filed by or on behalf of the Child, pass an order for interim compensation to meet the immediate needs of the child for relief or rehabilitation at any stage after registration of the First Information Report . Such interim compensation shall be adjusted against the final compensation, if any.

Concern for Children

Children who have been sexually abused are traumatised as a result of their experience. They are at further risk of exploitation and victimisation during the justice delivery system if the cases are handled by unspecialized Police, prosecutors and Judges who are not trained in delivering justice for children.

Prevention of child sexual abuse, protection of the victim, justice delivery and rehabilitation of victims are inter-related issues. The key players include the Police, Prosecution, Courts, NGOs, Medical Institutions, Psychologists and Counsellors. The victims need to be treated with sympathy, love and care. Each of us has a role and responsibility in the rehabilitation and healing of the child who had been a victim of sexual exploitation. The children of poor families are often the victim.

Our duty to our children

When a sexual offence against a child becomes public knowledge it can often lead to mob violence like burning the house of the accused. The Responsibility lies heavily upon all concerned to help deliver justice promptly, speedily and it is required that justice should not only be done but must also be seen to be done. The general public often believes that justice delayed is justice denied. On the one hand, the public should be educated and made aware that nobody is above the law and that they should not take the law into their own hands, on the other hand, the legal system should be responsive taking into account the fact that in POCSO cases endeavour should be made to conclude the trial, as far as possible, within a period of one year from the date of taking cognizance of the offence [S.34(2)]. A prolonged trial not only vitiates the rights of the accused but the victim suffers twice i.e. the pain of being a victim and a protracted trial. Everybody owes a duty towards their children to protect them and to enable them to spend a happy and safe childhood. Our children are our future.

15 Jun 2022


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