Recently, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed its first charge-sheet in the infamous Rohtak's "Apna Ghar" sexual abuse case wherein young girls who were inmates in the aforesaid shelter home run by an NGO in Haryana were allegedly sexually assaulted and exploited by those who were manning the institution meant for destitute/orphan children.
The case had hogged media headlines throughout the country in May this year when a team of National Commission for Protection of Children Rights (NCPCR) raided the ibid shelter home after receiving complaints from certain inmates who escaped from there to Delhi and revealed their ordeal and trauma.
After the Punjab and Haryana High Court took a strong exception of the issue, the case was finally handed over to the CBI in July for a thorough investigation within a stipulated time-frame. The CBI has charged the seven accused out of ten being investigated under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) along with provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
It is indeed shocking to see that those who have taken over the duty of granting shelter to deserted/destitute/orphaned/physically challenged children themselves indulge in such heinous acts of their sexual exploitation and harassment for various reasons. Pertinent to mention that the menace of child sexual abuse prevailing rampant in our society was also brought to limelight in the second episode of Aamir Khan's much popularized weekly TV show "Satyamev Jayate". The annual report "Crime in India-2011" by NCRB reveals an increase of 24 per cent in incidence of crime against children in 2011 over 2010. Of the over 33,000 reported cases, more than 7100 pertained to their rape/sexual assault.
Amidst all this, it is noteworthy to mention that a long awaited and much overdue legislation so as to deal effectively with offences relating to children regarding their sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography along with provision for establishment of Special Courts for trial of such offences viz. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (PCSO) Bill was passed by the Parliament in May this year.
The legislation so passed has since received the assent of the President of India on 19 th June, 2012 and has been published in the Gazette of India as Act No. 32 of 2012. But the due date of notification for enforcement of this Act is yet to be appointed by the Central Government. Also requisite framing of Rules under section 45 so as to carrying out the purposes of this Act is also yet to be done by the Central Government. It is highly hoped that the needful would be done at the earliest so that the child sexual abuse cases including those mentioned above are tried as per provisions of this new Act.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Act incorporates several child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences. Certain provisions in the Act such as frequent breaks for the victimized child during trial, child not to be called repeatedly to testify, no aggressive questioning or character assassination of the child and in-camera trial of such cases are indeed laudable.
For the more heinous offences of Penetrative Sexual Assault, Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault, the burden of proof is shifted on the accused. This provision has been made keeping in view the greater vulnerability and innocence of children. For speedy trial, the Act provides for the evidence of the child to be recorded within a period of 30 days. Also, the Special Court is to complete the trial within a period of one year, as far as possible. The media has been barred from disclosing the identity of the child without the permission of the Special Court. The early notification/enforcement of PCSO Act by the Central Government would ensure that the ongoing cases relating to Apna Ghar and other similar cases are tried under provisions of this new law.