Besides the investigation by the police, what steps has your ministry taken to ensure that those guilty of the killings in Noida are punished?
We have set up an inquiry panel, which will submit its report within 14 days. Once we have the evidence, action will follow. But it is unfortunate that something as gory as this had to happen to draw attention to the crucial issue of child safety.
While some sections say the killings were the handiwork of a paedophile, others suspect it was an organ trade racket. What is your opinion?
The victims were young boys and girls as well as married women. Going by the victims’ profile, the accused either has a very bizarre psychology or there are some missing links. I will wait for the inquiry report before I can conclusively comment on the matter.
Do you think the police could have protected the children under the existing laws?
Of course, they could have had they acted in time. Even if one person goes missing, it is the responsibility of the police to lodge an FIR. It is worrying to hear parents of the victims claim that the police did not lodge cases.
Even so, the existing laws do not cover, or even acknowledge, different kinds of sexual offences committed against children. All we have is Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, which is punishment for rape, and Section 377, that defines unnatural sexual offences. Do you plan a more exhaustive law?
Yes, we do. We plan to bring in a new Act, ‘Offences Against Children Act 2007’. The draft Bill is ready and we hope it will be passed in the coming session of Parliament. I will bring such strict laws that no one will dare look at children. Under the proposed Act, punishment will vary depending on the offence and the age of the child victim. Punishment will range from a jail term of six months to life imprisonment with a fine.
Are there any other plans?
We will soon set up a National Child Commission, which will have child representatives on board. Children must have a say in issues concerning them. The ministry has also developed the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) to address the issue of child protection and welfare in a holistic manner. This is also an attempt to allocate increased amount of resources in the 11th Five Year Plan for children in need of care and protection.