The Parliament on Thursday passed a bill that provides for stringent punishment for sexual crimes against children and death penalty in cases of aggravated sexual assault.
The Lok Sabha passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on Thursday. The bill seeks to amend Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. It had been passed by Rajya Sabha earlier.
In her reply to the debate on the bill, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Ir said 6.20 lakh sexual offenders were listed in the national database and they were being tracked by investigative agencies. She also expressed concern that the number of juvenile perpetrators of crimes is increasing.
Ir said the government was working to create 1023 fast track courts under the Nirbhaya fund to provide quick justice in cases of crimes against women.
"Eighteen states have come on board to see that these courts are established between 2019-20 and 2020-21," she said.
The minister said that about Rs 75 lakh would be spent in creating infrastructure for each court.
The minister expressed concern over the "slow rate" of conviction in POCSO cases and said that in about 36,000 cases under the Act, over 36,000 persons have been arrested.
Referring to a point made by a member about consensual sex, Ir said the suggestion was made before the standing committee which had said that there should be no exemption in cases involving children below 18 years of age.
She said steps had been taken for witness protection and states urged to create witness protection fund.
Asked about the suggestion that death penalty should not be given if the accused is a juvenile, she said in such cases the matter is decided by the court in consultation with Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) to determine if the person is of an adult mind.
The minister said various ministries were working cohesively on the issue of child protection under the Modi government and there has been a suggestion to track progress in POCSO cases.
Ir said children in CBSE-affiliated schools were being given awareness about "good touch and bad touch" and teachers were also being trained.
The minister suggested MPs to take up POCSO cases in district-level meetings.
She said there were 680 child welfare committees of which 444 were working to full strength while 509 of 675 JJBs were working to full strength.
Noting that training was being imparted for collection of forensic evidence, the minister suggested that the approved list of counsellors should be published.
Earlier, moving the bill for passage in the House, Ir had said 60 per cent of people using the internet were of ages less than 24, and there has been an instance of 5,000 people subscribing to an online porn channel which had the video of a crime.
She said the bill will protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensure their safety and dignity.
Referring to a case of drugs being administered to children to bring about early sexual maturity, Ir said the bill seeks to award strong punishment in such cases.
Members cutting across party lines demanded strong punishment in crimes against children.
The Bill provides for levying fines and imprisonment to curb child pornography.
The strong penal provisions are expected to act as a deterrent to curb child sex abuse.
( With inputs from ANI )