According to the data provided by the law ministry, there are over 90,000 pending POCSO cases in the special courts, as of 2016. Of these cases, 17,300 cases are pending in the state of Maharashtra alone. The POCSO (Protection Of Children from Sexual Offense) courts are special courts, which try the cases of sexual crimes against children, under the direct supervision of High Courts of respective states. There are 597 POCSO courts in India, for 707 districts. With the number of pending cases exponentially increasing over a year, for many survivors the justice they seek will be delayed.
Pending POCSO cases will set a wrong precedent for survivors and their peers
As per an NCBI report, every second child in India is being exposed to one or the other form of sexual abuse.
And despite a significant rise in the number of cases reported per year, the social repercussions surrounding child sexual abuse, prevents many peers from taking legal action against the offenders.
The shame and stigma around child sexual abuse leads many parents to hide the incident from the society’s eye. We also know that in nearly 90 percent of the cases, the perpetrator is known to the child.
It is therefore, very difficult for parents and survivors to fight a legal battle against the paedophiles. But if justice keeps getting delayed in these cases, it sends out a wrong message to the society. Also, with time, the pain of reliving the incident again and again, and not getting any justice is very hard on young minds. Hence, it will only discourage other parents and survivors from coming forward.
Delay puts well-being of other children at risk as well.
The idea behind setting up POCSO courts is to ensure swift justice for survivors of sexual abuse. But with so many pending cases, the sexual predators manage to roam free. This puts other children in the vicinity of the predators at risk. Delaying justice in these cases is as bad as not taking any legal action as the intention to give children a safe and abuse-free society gets hindered in both the cases.
The statistics available on Darkness to light says that 70% of child sex offenders claim between one and 9 victims, while 20% have 10 to 40 victims.
We need a more structured approach to deal with all the cases that are filed. The high courts in states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, which have the most number of pending cases need to find the underlying cause of the backlog. The authorities should try to monitor the progress of each case closely, making sure that the proceedings are swift and not stall by any sort of interference; technical or otherwise. Our country has nearly 472 million children (0 to 18 years). Nearly half of whom are at the risk of falling prey to child sex offenders. Swifter justice and prompt action will help keep our homes and streets safe for our children. Enabling POCSO courts with more manpower and keeping track of the pending cases is essential for that goal.
Picture Credits: IndiaTimes
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.