The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed a Bill seeking to protect children from sexual abuse with provision for setting up special courts for speedy trial and stringent punishment including life sentence for committing sexual assault on minors under the age of 16.
The House passed the Protection of Children Sexual Offences Bill, 2011 through voice vote after a brief discussion.
Showing extreme concern over the sensitive issue of child abuse, the members sat beyond scheduled time of 6 pm in the House to approve the Bill, the provisions of which extends to the whole country except Jammu and Kashmir.
Piloting the Bill, Krishna Tirath, women and child development minister said the legislation has been necessitated due to the fact that incidents of child abuse has increased immensely, particularly in the NCR region.
The minister said according to a study conducted by her ministry in 13 states, 33% of children accepted that they have been sexually exploited.
"Provided that where such penetrative sexual assault is committed against a child between 16 to 18 years of age, it shall be considered whether the consent for such an act has been obtained against the will of the child or the consent has been obtained by use of violence, force, threat to use force, intoxicants, drugs, impersonation, fraud, deceit, coercion, undue influence, threats, when the child is sleeping or unconscious or where the child does not have the capacity to understand the nature of the act or to resist it," the Bill read.
The minister said the Bill has provision for the state governments to set a court of session to be a Special Court to try the offences under the Act.
For the purposes of providing speedy trial, the state governments shall in consultation with the Chief Justice of the high court, set up a special court to try the offences under the Act, according to the Bill.
The Bill also has provision for stringent punishments for perpetrators of crime against children.
"Whoever commits penetrative sexual assault on children shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine."
It said, "whoever uses a child for pornographic purposes shall be liable for rigorous imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and also with fine".
Initiating discussion on the Bill, Smriti Irani (BJP) said the matter was "sensitive" and welcomed the government's efforts to check the menace of sexual abuse of children many a times perpetrated by relatives of the victims.
She emphasised on adequate fund for relief and rehabilitation of the victim (child).
TN Seema (CPI-M) also supported the Bill saying the existing legislations failed to control crimes against children.