Three acquittals for every conviction under POCSO Act: Report by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, World Bank's DE JURE
A study conducted by the Justice, Access and Lowering Delays in India (JALDI) Initiative at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy in collaboration with the Data Evidence for Justice Reform (DE JURE) program at the World Bank, reveals that for every conviction under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, there are three acquittals.
The study, entitled A Decade of POCSO: Developments, Challenges and Insights from Judicial Data, was undertaken to view the role of the judiciary in the implementation of the POCSO Act in India.
The report looked at nearly 4,00,000 cases spanning 28 states and union territories, interviewed stakeholders and studied judgments in a select sample of cases.
Acquittals are significantly higher than convictions in most states across India. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, acquittals are 7 times higher than convictions, the report says.
The key findings of the study are:
There is huge interstate and intrastate variation in the number of POCSO trials in India.
For instance, in Himachal Pradesh, reporting ranges from 0.91 cases per 1,00,000 population in Kullu to 90.35 cases per 1,00,000 in Kinnaur.
Pendency across states is extremely varied.
Three-fourths (77.77%) of POCSO cases filed between November 2012 to February 2021 in Uttar Pradesh remain pending. Whereas Tamil Nadu, at 80.2%, has the highest disposal rate of cases of any state or union territory analysed by the study.
Time taken for disposal of POCSO cases is often longer than the one year stipulated as per the Act.
On average, it takes 509.78 days (1 year 5 months) for a POCSO case to be disposed of. Chandigarh and West Bengal are the only states where the average time taken for disposal of POCSO cases is within the stipulated time period as per Section 35 of the Act. In 2020, an average POCSO case in Delhi took 1,284.33 days (3 years and 6 months) to be disposed of.
The evidence stage is the most time consuming of all stages.
On average, a typical POCSO case takes 183.41 days (over 6 months) to go through the evidence stage. This again varies from state to state. In Delhi, for instance, 593.03 days per case (1 year and 7 months) is spent on the evidence stage.
The report stated that the main objective of a child protection system is to develop a just system that satisfies the particular needs of children that come into contact with it. It makes the following suggestions to achieve this objective:
Legislative and policy
The age of consent should be reduced from 18 to 16 years with adequate safeguards.
Further substantive amendments to the Act should be made only after public consultations with domain experts.
POCSO courts need to be made functional
Expedite the appointment of adequately trained Special Public Prosecutors exclusively for POCSO courts.
A ‘hybrid’ approach for recording of evidence.
Ensure the appointment and continuous presence of support persons in the pre-trial stage and trial stage.
Increasing accuracy and uniformity in eCourts data
Standardise Act names to make it easier to get accurate data using the Act name feature of eCourts.
Provide clear and usable information pertaining to outcomes of cases.
Provide information pertaining to date of filing of FIR, chargesheet, and date of cognizance by court on the eCourts platform.
Former Supreme Court judge, Justice Indira Banerjee was the keynote speaker at the launch event. This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Deepika Kinhal that had former Bombay High Court judge, Justice Shalini P Joshi, Anant Kumar Asthana, Dr Asha Bajpai and Devendra Damle as panelists.
View the report here.