Article 46 of the Constitution provides that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

Welfare of Other Backward Classes

  • With the amendment of Article 15 of the Constitution in 2006 and the enactment of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act in 2007, listing of other backward classes has become relevant for admission in central educational institutions.
    • The OBC list presented by the National Commission for Backward Classes is dynamic (castes and communities can be added or removed) and is subject to change from time to time depending on social, educational and economic factors. For example, the OBCs are entitled to 27 % reservations in public sector employment and higher education.
  • 102nd Constitution Amendment Act, 2018 provides constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) [Article 338B]. It has the authority to examine complaints and welfare measures regarding socially and educationally backward classes.
    • Previously NCBC was a statutory body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
    • The Backward Classes Division in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment looks after the policy, planning and implementation of programmes related to social and economic empowerment of OBCs.
      • It also looks after matters relating to two institutions set up for the welfare of OBCs: National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC) and the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).

Welfare of Older Persons

National Policy for Older Persons

The existing National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP) was announced in 1999 to reaffirm the commitment to ensure the well-being of the older persons. The Policy envisaged state support to ensure financial and food security, health care, shelter and other needs of older persons, equitable share in development, protection against abuse and exploitation, and availability of services to improve the quality of their lives.

National Council for Older Persons
  • The government has reconstituted National Council for Older Persons (NCOP) to advise and aid the government on developing policies and programmes for older persons.
  • It provides feedback to the government on the implementation of the national policy on older persons and the specific initiatives for older persons.
  • Under Integrated Programme for Older Persons, financial assistance upto 90 per cent of the project cost is provided to NGOs for establishing and maintaining old age homes, day care centres, and mobile medicare units and to provide non-institutional services to older persons.
  • The Council has been reconstituted and renamed as National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSrC) in 2012.

Welfare of Minorities

The Ministry of Minority Affairs was established in 2006. It has been mandated for formulation of policies, schemes and programmes for welfare and socio-economic development of 6 (six) notified minority communities namely, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains. From October 2016, the mandate of the Ministry has been expanded to manage Haj Pilgrimage as well.

15-Point Programme for Minorities

The Prime Minister’s 15-Point programme for the Welfare of Minorities was announced in 2006. The objectives of the programme are:

  • (a) enhancing opportunities for education,
  • (b) ensuring an equitable share for minorities in economic activities and employment, through existing and new schemes, enhanced credit support for self-employment and recruitment to state and central government jobs,
  • (c) improving the conditions of living of minorities by ensuring an appropriate share for them in infrastructure development schemes,
  • (d) prevention and control of communal disharmony and violence.
Scholarship Schemes for Minority Students

This Ministry is implementing three scholarship schemes for the educational empowerment of students belonging to the notified minority communities:

  • (i) pre-matric scholarship;
  • (ii) post-matric scholarship; and
  • (iii) meritcum-means based scholarship.
Naya Savera – Free Coaching and Allied Scheme
  • The “Free Coaching and Allied Scheme for the candidates belonging to miniority communities was launched in 2007.
Nai Udaan
  • The objective of the Scheme is to provide financial support to the minority candidates clearing prelims conducted by Union Public Service Commission, Staff Selection Commission and State Public Service Commissions to adquately equip them to compete for appointment to Civil Services in the Union and the state governments and to increase the representation of the minority in the civil services by giving direct financial support to candidates.
Padho Pardes
  • The objective of the Scheme is to award interest subsidy to meritorious students belonging to economically weaker sections of notified minority communities so as to provide them better opportunities for higher education abroad and enhance their employability.
Nai Roshni
  • It is an exclusive scheme ‘Nai Roshni’ for leadership development of minority women with an aim to empower and instill confidence in them by providing knowledge, tools and techniques for interacting with government systems, banks and intermediaries at all levels. It is implemented through empanelled non-governmental organizations.
National Commission for Minorities
  • The first statutory National Commission was set up in 1993.
  • The NCM Act, 1992 was amended in 1995 and the Commission’s composition was expanded to 7 members (including a Chairperson and a Vice Chairperson).
  • The provision under Section 3(2) of the Act stipulates that five members including the Chairpersons shall be from amongst the minority communities.
National Commission for Religious and Linguistic
Minorities Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities
  • The Office of the Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities (CLM) was established in 1957. In pursuance of the provision of Article 350-B of the Constitution which envisages investigation by CLM of all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the linguistic minorities in the country under the Constitution and reporting to the President upon these matters at such intervals.

Welfare of Women and Child Development

The development of women and children is of paramount importance and sets the pace for overall development. A separate Ministry of Women and Child Development came into existence from 2006 with the prime intention of addressing gaps in state action for women and children and for promoting inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral convergence to create gender equitable and child centred
legislation, policies and programmes. The Ministry has the main responsibility to advance the rights and concerns of women and children and to promote their survival, protection, development and participation in a holistic manner.

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is one the flagship programmes of the Government, launched in 2015 to address the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and address other related issues of disempowerment of women.
  • CSR is the number of girls against 1000 boys in the age group of 0- 6 years.
  • It is a tri-ministerial, convergent effort of Ministries of Women and Child Development, Health and Family Welfare and Human Resource Development with focus on the following:
    • awareness and advocacy campaign;
    • multi-sectoral action in select 161 districts (low on CSR);
    • enabling girls’ education;
    • effective enforcement of pre conception and pre natal diagnostic techniques (PC&PNDT) Act.
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana
  • Government announced pan India implementation of maternity benefit programme to eligible pregnant women and lactating mothers. The programme was named Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY).
  • It is a centrally sponsored Scheme under which the grant-inaid is PMMVY released to states/UTs.
  • PMMVY envisages providing cash incentive amounting to Rs 5,000/- directly to the bank/post office account of PW and LM in DBT mode during pregnancy and lactation in response to individual fulfilling specific conditions.
One Stop Centre
  • One Stop Centres (OSC) was conceived and is being implemented across the country since April 2015.
  • A woman who has suffered violence can get medical, police, legal and psychological counselling assistance at these centres.
  • The OSC is popularly known by the name of Sakhi.
Panic Button on Mobile Phones
  • To provide emergency response to women in distress, MWCD had taken up the installation of physical panic button on mobile phones.
Mahila Police Volunteers
  • The broad mandate of Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs) is to report to authorities/police the incidences of violence against women such as domestic violence, child marriage, dowry harassment and violence faced by women in public spaces.
Reservation for Women in Police Force
  • The WCD Ministry has been working along with the Ministry of Home Affairs to improve overall police responsiveness to gender sensitive cases and to bring visibility to more women and strengthen gender sensitivity in police force.
Inclusion of Acid Attack as Disability
  • Taking note of the long lasting damage or disfigurement on the life of a person attacked with acid as well as constant medical attention, MWCD requested Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to include acid attack induced damage or disfigurement within the list of specified disabilities.
Gender Budgeting Initiatives
  • Gender Budgeting (GB) is a powerful tool for achieving gender mainstreaming so as to ensure that benefits of development reach women as much as men.
  • It is not an accounting exercise alone but an ongoing process of keeping a gender perspective at various steps of budget planning, allocation, implementation, impact/outcome assessment, review and audit.
Extending Maternity Leave Duration
  • Ministry of Labour and Employment carried out amendments in the Act, which are as follows:
    • (i) enhancement of maternity leave under Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 from existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks;
    • (ii) extension of maternity benefit to adopting mothers and commissioning mothers;
    • (iii) establishment of creche facility within the office/factory premises.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace
  • To ensure safety and security of women at workplaces, the Ministry of Women and Child Development is working towards the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Rashtriya Mahila Kosh
  • The main objective of Rastriya Mahila Kosh is to provide micro-credit to poor women through intermediary organizations (IMO), which includes Section 25 companies, NGOs among others for various livelihood support and income generating activities at concessional terms in a client-friendly procedure to bring about their socioeconomic development.
Mahila e-Haat
  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development launched “Mahila e-Haat”, a unique direct online digital marketing platform for women entrepreneurs/SHOs/NGOs in 2016.
  • This can become a game changer initiative as it can become a catalyst in strengthening women entrepreneurship and financial inclusion.
  • The USP of Mahila e-haat is facilitating direct contact between the vendor and buyer. It is easy to access as the entire business of e-Haat can be handled through a mobile.

Welfare of Transgenders

Transgender encompasses anyone whose identity or behavior falls outside of stereotypical gender norms.

Constitutional Rights of Transgender People
  • Preamble to the Constitution mandates Justice – social, economic, and political equality of status.
  • Thus the first and foremost right that they are deserving of is the right to equality under Article 14. Article 15 speaks about the prohibition of discrimination on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Article 21 ensures right to privacy and personal dignity to all the citizens.
  • Article 23 prohibits trafficking in human beings as beggars and other similar forms of forced labor and any contravention of these provisions shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
  • The main problems that are being faced by the transgender community are of discrimination, unemployment, lack of educational facilities, homelessness, lack of medical facilities: like HIV care and hygiene, depression, hormone pill abuse, tobacco and alcohol abuse, penectomy, and problems related to marriage and adoption.
Steps taken for Welfare of Transgenders
  • The Government of Odisha formulated an umbrella scheme ‘Sweekruti’ to secure the rights of transgender persons and ensure equitable justice.
  • Kerala is the first State to establish a Policy for Transgenders, in India. Also Kerala has India’s first justice board for transgenders.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019
Who is a Transgender?
  • According to the Act transgender means a person whose gender does not match with the gender assigned to that person at birth.
  • It includes trans-person with intersex variations, gender-queer and person having such socio-cultural identities as kinnar, hijra, aaravani and jogta.
  • India’s 2011 Census was the first census in its history to incorporate the number of ‘trans’ population of the country. The report estimated that 4.8 million Indians identified as transgender.
What Issues do the Transgender People Face?
  • Lack of Legal Protection: They are subjected to custodial violence, dereliction of duty by state and overall apathy to their issues such as educational, residential, medical and employment.
  • Poverty: Lack of legal protection translates into unemployment for transgender people. They’re denied services and experience high rates of unemployment, housing insecurity and marginalisation.
  • Harassment and Stigma: They are met with ridicule from the society and are considered mentally ill, socially deviant and sexually predatory.
  • Anti-Transgender Violence: They are forced for gender conformism, aversion based pseudo-psychotherapies, forced marriages, stripping, physical and verbal abuse and are pushed into prostitution by their own families.
  • Barriers to Healthcare: Their exposure to basic health care is minimal as they are subject to apathy from medical fraternity with professionals lacking transgender health care competency.
What is the Timeline of Reforms for Transgender Persons?
  • In 2009, appropriate directions were issued by the Election Commission to all provinces to amend the format of the registration forms to include an option of “others”. This enabled transsexual people to tick the column if they didn’t want to be identified as either male or female.
  • The Supreme Court in National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India (2014) recognized them as the “Third Gender”.
    • In the landmark ruling, Justice K.S Radhakrishnan observed that “recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue, but a human rights issue”.
  • In 2014, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, was introduced as a private member’s Bill by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Tiruchi Siva, and passed by the Rajya Sabha in April 2015.
  • Recently, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 has been enacted.
What are the Key Provisions of the Bill?
  • Prohibition Against Discrimination: The Bill prohibits discrimination of transgenders in relation to opportunities for education, job, health care services, and access to services etc.
  • Right to be Recognized as Transgender: Every person has a right to be recognized as a transgender.
    • A certificate of identity has to be obtained from the District Magistrate, who will issue the certificate based on the District Screening Committee.
    • The Act calls for establishing a National Council for Transgender persons (NCT).
  • Right of Residence: No transgender person shall be separated from parents or immediate family on the ground of being a transgender.
  • Health Care: The Act also seeks to provide rights of health facilities to transgender persons including separate HIV surveillance centres, and sex reassignment surgeries.
    • It also states that the government shall review medical curriculum to address health issues of transgender persons, and provide comprehensive medical insurance schemes for them.
  • Penal Provisions: it criminalizes: (i) begging, forced or bonded labor (ii) denial of use of a public place; (iii) denial of residence in the household, village, etc.; (iv) physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse.
What are the Challenges Associated with the Act?
  • Transgender persons are not defined properly and the Act does not have any provision for self-determination of gender.
  • The Act is silent on granting reservations to transgender person, going against the Supreme Court verdict in NALSA judgment in 2014 which seeks to give reservation to transgender as socially and educationally backward classes.
  • Begging is a way of life for transgender as they dance or sing and earn money. However, the act criminalizes begging by making it an offence without taking alternative affirmative action for their social security.
  • It sets lighter consequences for discrimination and assault on Trans people compared to cis-gender people which prescribes jail sentence of 7 years for sexual assault on women.
  • The Act treats transgender as victims rather than an empowered subject with rights.
  • The Standing Committee’s concerns about recognizing rights in marriage, divorce and adoption of transgender person have not been addressed.
  • The Act violates the transgender’s constitutional Right to Freedom of Residence under the Article 19 as they must either stay with their parents or approach a court.

Welfare of Differently Abled Persons

Person with disability” means a person with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others. As per the Census 2011,the differently-abled population in India is 26.8 million. This stands at 2.21 %.

Differently Abled Persons

Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), has formulated the accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan), as a nation-wide campaign for achieving universal accessibility for PwDs. The campaign targets three separate verticals for achieving universal accessibilities, namely, the built up environment, transportation eco-system and information and communication eco-system.

The Department is collaborating with Ministry of Home, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Tourism for creating “accessible police station”, “accessible hospitals” and “accessible tourism” respectively across the country. DEPwD is also in the process of creating a mobile app, along with a web portal for crowd sourcing the request regarding inaccessible places.

The National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC) is an apex level financial institution for extending credit facilities to persons with disabilities for their economic development.

Steps taken for Welfare of Differently Abled

In order to give focused attention to Policy issues and meaningful thrust to the activities aimed at welfare and empowerment of the Persons with Disabilities, a separate Department of Disability Affairs was carved out of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on May 12, 2012.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
  • The Act replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
  • It fulfills the obligations to the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory.
  • The Act provides for penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities and also violation of the provisions of the new law.
  • The National Mental Health Policy, announced in October , 2014, is based, inter-alia, on the values and principles of equity, justice, integrated and evidence based care, quality, participatory and holistic approach to mental health.

Under National Trust following schemes have been implemented.

  • DISHA (Early Intervention and School Readiness Scheme)
  • VIKAAS (Day Care)
  • SAMARTH (Respite Care)
  • GHARAUNDA (Group Home for Adults)
  • NIRAMAYA (Health Insurance Scheme)
  • SAHYOGI (Caregiver training scheme)
  • PRERNA (Marketing Assistance)
  • SAMBHAV (Aids and Assisted Devices)
  • BADHTE KADAM (Awareness and Community Interaction)
  • Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme to promote Voluntary Action for Persons with Disabilities (DDRS Scheme). The approach of this Scheme is to provide financial assistance to voluntary organizations to make available the whole range of services necessary for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities including early intervention, development of daily living skills, education, skill-development oriented towards employability, training and awareness generation. With a view to inclusion of persons with disabilities in the mainstream of society and actualizing their potential, the thrust would be on education and training programmes.
  • NHFDC Loan Scheme for Vocational Education and Training for PwDs.

Welfare of Particular Vulnerable Tribal Group

Some tribal groups have some specific features such as dependency on hunting, gathering for food, having pre agriculture level of technology, zero or negative growth of population and extremely low level of literacy. These groups are called Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups. PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups.

Scheme for Development of Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)
  • The Scheme for Development of Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), came into effect from April 1, 2008.
  • The Scheme defines PVTGs as the most vulnerable among the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheme therefore seeks to prioritise their protection and development. It identifies 75 PVTGs.
  • The Scheme seeks to adopt a holistic approach to the socio-economic development of PVTGs and gives state governments flexibility in planning initiatives that are geared towards the specific socio-cultural imperatives of the specific groups at hand.

Welfare of “De-notified Tribe (DNT) and Nomadic Tribe”

Origin of Terms
  • This is traced to the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) of 1871. Under the act, ethnic or social communities in India which were defined as “addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences” such as thefts, were systematically registered by the Government.
  • The colonial government notified nearly 200 tribal communities to be hereditary criminals.
  • They were in fact given social identity as outcasts.
  • The colonial Act subjected them to constant harassment by the Administration.
  • After India gained Independence, these were ‘denotified’ from the list of Criminal Tribes
Present Day Reality
  • After Independence, CTA 1871 was repealed and later on the Centre proposed Habitual Offenders Act (HOA).
  • Ten States across the Country enacted it. This is shifting the collective burden on community to the individual.
  • Nomadic and semi-nomadic communities continued to face harassment at the hands of law enforcement agencies.
  • Denotified Tribes (DNTs) continue to face ostracisation by society at large.
Repercussions of Ostracisation
  • They don’t have proper identities. Often they do not possess any residential proof, that is why, they are out of the Government’s developmental schemes.
  • Those deemed eligible for such schemes were randomly grouped under SC/ST/OBC categories.
  • As a result, most members of the DNTs continues to be out of the orbit of steps being taken to end discrimination.
  • Denotified Tribes (DNT) of India, continue to be considered ‘criminal by birth’. The mere repeal of the CTA could not change the mindset of government officials or members of society.
Efforts of Government Since 2000
  • The first National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) was constituted in 2003.
  • It was reconstituted two years later under Balkrishna Renke. It submitted its report in 2008 recommending repeal of various HOAs.
  • Subsequently, Idate Commission was constituted with similar mandate.
  • The Government in July 2014 had constituted National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) for a period of three years to prepare a State-wise list of castes belonging to DNTs.
  • The Government has decided to set up a Development and Welfare Board under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 under the aegis of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in February 2019.
Schemes for DNT

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is implementing the following schemes for the welfare of the DNTs.

  • Dr. Ambedkar Pre-Matric and Post-Matric Scholarship for DNTs: This Centrally Sponsored Scheme was launched w.e.f. 2014-15 for the welfare of those DNT students who are not covered under SC, ST or OBC. The income ceiling for eligibility is Rs. 2.00 lakh per annum. The scheme is implemented through State Governments/UT Administrations. The expenditure is shared between the Centre and the States in the ratio of 75:25.
  • Nanaji Deshmukh Scheme of Construction of Hostels for DNT Boys and Girls. This Centrally Sponsored Scheme launched w.e.f. 2014-15 is implemented through State Governments/ UT Administrations/ Central Universities. The aim of the scheme is to provide hostel facilities to those DNT students; who are not covered under SC, ST or OBC; to enable them to pursue higher education. The income ceiling for eligibility is Rs. 2.00 lakh per annum. The Central Government provides a maximum of 500 seats per annum throughout the country. The cost norm is Rs. 3.00 lakh per seat plus Rs. 5000/-per seat for furniture. The expenditure is shared between the Centre and the States in the ratio of 75:25.
  • From the year 2017-18, the scheme “Assistance to Voluntary Organization working for the Welfare of Other Backward Classes (OBCs)” has been extended for DNTs and EBCs as “Central Sector Scheme of Assistance for Skill Development of Backward Classes (OBCs)/ De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (DNTs)/ Economic Backward Classes (EBCs)”.
Need of the Hour
  • The HOAs need to be repealed.
  • The development policies should cater to the longstanding and overlooked needs.
  • Government should reach out to the DNTs.
  • The DNTs by default refrain from seeking State’s help.
  • There is a need to end the oppression of the nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes of India.

Children’s Issues

Missing/Trafficked/Runaway Children
  • Khoya-Paya Portal: In order to bring citizen participation for protecting children, a new citizen based portal KhoyaPaya was launched in 2015 which enables posting of information of missing and sighted children.
  • Children are often unable to complain about sexual abuse in order to provide them with a safe and anonymous mode of making a complaint, an internet based facility, e-Box, has been provided. Here, a child or anyone on his/her behalf can file a complaint with minimal details. As soon as the complaint is filed, a trained counsellor immediately contacts the child and provides assistance.
Juvenile Justice
  • Juvenile Justice Model Rules, 2016 prescribe detailed child friendly procedures for the police, Juvenile Justice Board and children’s court. Some of these procedures include: no child to be sent to jail or lock-up, no child to be handcuffed, a child to be provided appropriate medical assistance, parent/guardian to be informed about legal aid, etc . The Juvenile Justice Board and the Children’s Court are required to put the child at ease and to encourage him/her to state the facts and circumstances without any fear, after understanding the questions put across in a language understood by the child.
National Nutrition Mission
  • National Nutrition Mission (NNM) is proposed to achieve improvement in nutritional status of children (0-6 years), adolescent girls and pregnant women and lactating mothers in a time bound manner over a period of three years. With the objectives of preventing and reducing undernutrition in children (0-3 years); reducing the prevalence of anaemia among young children (6-59 months); reducing the prevalence of anaemia among women and adolescent girls (15-49 years) and reducing low birth weight.
Anganwadi Services
  • The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme now known as Anganwadi Services Scheme has the objective to improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years; lay the foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child; reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropouts; achieve effective coordination of policy and implementation amongst the various departments to promote child development; and enhance the capability of the mothers to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the children through proper nutrition and health education.
Improving Anganwadi Infrastructure
  • The Government is committed to repositioning the Anganwadi Centre (AWC) as a vibrant early childhood development centre to become the first village outpost for health, nutrition and early learning.
Scheme for Adolescent Girls
  • Under the nutrition component, the out-of-school adolescent girls (11-14 years) attending AWCs and all girls (14-18 years) are provided supplementary nutrition in the form of take home ration/hot cooked meal. In the non-nutrition component, out-of-school adolescent girls of 11-18 years are being provided IFA supplementation, health check-up, and referral services, nutrition and health education. Adolescent Reproductive Sexual Health (ARSH) counselling/guidance on family welfare, life skill education, guidance on accessing public services and vocational training(only 16-18 year old adolescent girls). The Scheme also aims at mainstreaming out-of-school girls to school system.
Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2019

Present Status of Sexual Crimes Against Children

  • 24,212 FIRs were filed across the country from January to June this year.
  • According to NCRB data of 2016, the conviction rate in POCSO cases is 29.6%, the pendency is as high as 89%.
  • The prescribed time period of two months for trial in such cases is hardly complied with.

The Court has taken note of the delay in trials in directing the Central Government to set up special courts within 60 days of the order in each district having more than 100 pending cases under the Act. The present amendments is a step forward in preventing child abuse.

Features of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2019

  1. Terminology
    • Aggravated Sexual Assault:
      • Where the offender is a relative of the child.
      • If the assault injures the sexual organs of the child.
      • Assault committed during a natural calamity.
      • Administrating any chemical substance to a child for the purpose of attaining early sexual maturity.
    • Child Pornography: Any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child which include photograph, video, digital or computer generated image indistinguishable from an actual child, and image created, adapted, or modified, but appear to depict a child.
  2. Imprisonments/Penalties
    • Penetrative Sexual Assault: Whoever commits penetrative sexual assault on a child below sixteen years of age shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than twenty years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life.
    • Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault:
      • Currently, the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault is imprisonment between 10 years to life and a fine.
      • The Bill increases the minimum punishment from ten years to 20 years and the maximum punishment to death penalty.
    • For Pornography:
      • Use of child for pornographic purposes attracts minimum imprisonment of 5 years.
      • Use of child for pornographic purposes resulting in penetrative sexual assault attracts minimum of 10 years (in case of child below 16 years: 20 years) and maximum of life imprisonment.
      • Pornography with aggravated sexual assault.
      • Use of child for pornographic purposes resulting in aggravated penetrative sexual assault attracts minimum of 20 years and maximum of life imprisonment, or death.

Expert’s View on Death Penalty

  • Justice J.S. Verma Committee, which was constituted in 2013, recommended against the imposition of death penalty in rape cases.
  • The 262nd Report of the Law Commission of India in 2015, also recommended for abolition of the death penalty, except in terror cases.

However, Supreme Court in Machhi Singh (1983) and Devender Pal Singh (2002) cases held that the death penalty can be awarded only in rarest of the rare cases.

Death Penalty for Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assaults on Children

  • Yes, It is Required
    • It will act as a strong deterrent; people should fear violating the rule of law.
    • The purpose of law is to ensure people to have faith in the law, as well as the law should generate fear in the hearts of potential criminals and violators.
    • The reported cases are very less. But, if society gets reassurance that the law will come to the aid of the victim, the secrecy surrounding the issue will disappear, reporting will increase.
    • One should consider the sexual assaults of children among the most heinous of offences. They should be punishable by capital punishment. Even ruthless gangsters, who were in prison for multiple murders, abhorred (hated) those, who raped minors.
  • No, Death Penalty cannot Act as a Deterrent
    • Death penalty has become a prominent tool of symbolic legislation. But, the bigger issue is infrastructural apathy , procedural lapses and trial delays.
    • It may threaten the life of the minor as the maximum punishment for murder is also the death sentence.
    • Robin Conley in his book, Confronting the Death Penalty, observed that the death penalty may seem just and appropriate in abstract (existing as an idea), but the deterrence has its own limitations.
    • Globally, there is research to support the view that despite stringent punishments, there is no fall in the rate of crimes.
  • Death penalty will increase pressure on child to not report the crime. As per ‘Crime in India: 2015’ report, 95% of the accused are known to the child.
  • Reliance on death penalty diverts the attention from other problems ailing the criminal justice system.

Need of the Hour

  • Establishing structures or appointing human resources under POCSO Act.
  • Certainty of healing/rehabilitation of the affected children.
  • Certainty and uniformity in punishment will reduce the crime.
  • The urgency is to have police reforms and fast-track courts.
  • We should have scientific investigations and gender sensitisation of youth

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