Silence will be a crime in sexual offences against children.
Not reporting sexual assault on a child would amount to shielding offenders and those failing to inform the police would face criminal prosecution, the Supreme Court said on Thursday.
“Non-reporting of the crime by anybody, after having come to know that a minor child below the age of 18 years was subjected to any sexual assault, is a serious crime,” a bench of justice KS Radhakrishnan and justice Madan B Lokur said.
Heads of educational institutions, special homes, children homes, shelters, hostels and jails were duty-bound to report sexual abuse or assault on a minor to the nearest special juvenile police unit or local police, the court said.
If the perpetrator is a family member, further action should be taken in consultation with the mother or other women members of the child’s family, the court said.
Utmost secrecy should be maintained while reporting such cases, it said.
The court issued a series of directions to the Centre and states to protect children from sexual abuse.
These come at a time when reports of sexual crimes against children are pouring in from all parts of the country, exposing their vulnerability to such predators.
The Centre and states have been asked to set up special juvenile police units (SJPUs) and take quick action for the care and protection of the victim.
Meanwhile acting on complaints, SJPUs should ensure no stigma was cast upon the child or the family members, the court said.
Media, too, has been restrained from revealing child's identity or any detail that would aid in identifying the victim.
Private and government hospitals have been told to immediately report cases of child abuse.
The directions came during the hearing of a rape and murder case.
While the court upheld the conviction of a middle-aged man from Maharashtra in the case, it, however, converted Shankar Kisanrao Khade's death sentence to life imprisonment.