Justice Madan B Lokur today said time has come to “introspect” on the “effectiveness” of the law to protect children from sexual abuse and what has been achieved in the nearly six years since the enactment of the POCSO Act.
He said there is a need to carry out an “assessment of the impact” the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 has had on the criminal justice delivery system.
Justice Lokur said despite there being more number of cases of child abuse than murder, “we spend more time discussing murders” and wondered “is murder of an adult more important than child sexual abuse”.
He was addressing a conference, organised by NGOs Haq Centre for Child Rights and Centre for Child and Law, on protecting children from sexual abuse and implementation of the POCSO Act.
The Supreme Court judge stressed on the need for a complete overhaul of the criminal justice delivery system under the POCSO Act so that the courts set up under this law deal only with child sexual abuse matters instead of the present practice where they deal with other kinds of criminal and civil cases as well.
He called for an audit of funds requirement, practices and procedures of the specialised courts, set up under this law, to help make the system better and stressed upon the need for specialisation of the judges, prosecutors and police officers who deal with such cases.
Justice Lokur said that defense lawyers in POCSO cases were specialised, but the same did not hold true for the public prosecutors, leading to a “mismatch”.
He also emphasised upon the need for bringing changes in evidence law, methods of investigation and strengthening of the forensics department of the government to keep pace with the changes in the nature of child sexual abuse crimes.
He said the emerging nature of crimes, such as child pornography, also need to be looked at, as there are difficulties associated with reporting and investigation of these new types of offences.
This, in turn, often leads to the evidence getting lost and the perpetrator not only going free but also being emboldened to commit the crime again, Justice Lokur said.
The judge further laid stress upon the need to raise awareness about such crimes as well as implementing the law in “full force” to ensure their prevention. He noted that implementation was “sadly lacking” as this responsibility often “keeps shuttling” between the Centre and the states.
Apart from that, he also called for examining the victim care and compensation as well as setting up a support system as many victims have to forego their eduction due to several reasons.
He also said there was a need to train and sensitise all the judicial, government and medical officials who deal with such matters as well as ensuring privacy of the victims.
“All these things need to be built into our criminal justice delivery system,” Justice Lokur said.