New rules under amended POCSO Act: Survivors may get quick compensation
Minor sexual assault survivors could be given immediate compensation within a week their cases are taken up in special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act courts, officials aware of the matter said citing new rules being drafted after amendments to the POCSO Act in August.
The rules are expected to be finalised within a month and will, among other things, lay down procedures under which immediate compensation will be extended to the survivors. They will specify the quantum of the compensation as well.
The survivors are expected to be given up to 10% or Rs 50,000 within a week POCSO courts begin hearing their cases, said an official involved in the process. The rules will provide for interim compensation within a month.
The complete compensation will have to be offered when a when the minor deposes in court for the first time, the officials said.
“Critics raised the issue that a victim might turn hostile if full compensation is paid early on and so the full amount will be paid only after the deposition in a court,” said the official cited above on condition of anonymity.
After the amendments to the POSCO Act in August, the Supreme Court in September directed the Centre to follow the compensation structure specified by the National Legal Services Authority. Under the structure, the maximum compensation for gang-rape survivors is Rs 5 lakh and for their kin in case of their deaths is Rs 10 lakh and the compensation in the case of rape and unnatural assault ranges from Rs 4 to Rs 7 lakh. The compensation for acid attack victims ranges from Rs 5 to 8 lakhs.
In November, Supreme Court registrar Surinder S Rathi’s report on POCSO cases found that only 1% of minor sexual assault survivors get compensation and that 96% are not provided support persons to assist them during legal processes.
Officials began drafting the rules in October. Union women and child development ministry secretary Rabindra Panwar has chaired meetings with the representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in this regard.
The POCSO Act was amended to make it gender-neutral and to introduce the death penalty for aggravated sexual assaults. The amendments redefined child pornography, and prescribed seven-year jail for the commercial distribution of computer-generated imagery involving child sex abuse and in cases of pornography wherein adults pretend to be children. Fines for storing sexually explicit material involving a child were also introduced--Rs 5,000 in the first instance and Rs 10,000 in the second.
Officials said a framework for reporting pornographic content involving a child to a designated government authority, its storage and deletion subsequently will also be laid out in the rules. The role, responsibilities, and qualifications of support persons, too, will be specified. Qualifications and compensation for interpreters engaged for minors, who do not speak languages of the investigators, will be laid out as well.
Another key change to the rules will involve making it mandatory for police to file a report on a survivor within 24 hours of the reporting of a sexual assault. The report will be based on the medico-legal examination of a survivor and will determine if there is a need for compensation.
Enakshi Ganguly of the HAQ Centre for Child Rights welcomed the move to award immediate compensation and said that it is crucial for the road to recovery and rehabilitation for traumatised minors. She added, however, that the legal system should aid the process.
“In many cases, compensation is not awarded by judges in many cases. What needs to be kept in mind is the uniformity of compensation across states. The trauma a child faces can’t be treated differently,” she said.
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