Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Rules, 2020
On 9th March 2020, the Central government notified new rules for POCSO Act, 2012 repealing the previous rules of 2012. Rules, unlike legislation, are formed by the executive and are meant to aid, bring clarity for effective implementation. Some of the highlights of the new rules are:
- A new section dedicated to awareness generation and capacity building bringing into the ambit all the stakeholders (Rule 3). What is notable is that the need for gender sensitivity training has been explicitly mentioned
- Accountability has been increased with provisions for CWC (Child Welfare Committee) to ask for monthly reports from Support Person but responsibility of ensuring safety and rehabilitation process of child remains with CWC, provisions for medical practitioners to report to police. It also lays down who is responsible for informing which stakeholders about status of the case
- Separate provisions have been mentioned for cases of pregnancy as a result of the violence, drug abuse and for children with disabilities.
- One of the new important provisions is the explicit inclusion of DLSA for legal aid/ assistance as well as directs it to make available funds for ‘special relief’ (Rule 8) for contingency needs. It also specifies that the funds for it have to be made available by DLSA (District Legal Services Authority), DCPU (District Child Protection Unit) and to use funds maintained under Section 105 of the JJ Act, 2015.
- Under Rule 10, procedure has been laid down for CWC, DLSA & DCPU to ensure that fines imposed by the Special Court are indeed paid to the child and necessary procedures for the same (like bank account, identity documents etc.) must be facilitated as well.
- While news articles have reported that 30 days compensation and interim compensation are new provisions, they were there in the previous rules as well. In fact there is no change in the section titled ‘Compensation’ (except for the Rule number – it is now 9)
- In a first, rules have been laid out for reporting of pornographic material involving children and use of cyber crime portal for the same.
- It has also been mandated that data collected to be shared with state government, central government, SCPCR and NCPCR (Commission for Protection of Child Rights) by Rule 12 (2)
- The provisions and responsibilities laid out for Support Person are perhaps the most crucial new aspect that have been added in the rules. They were much needed as a Support person can be a focal person for the child and the case, especially when a child survivor of violence is without familial support.
- Two forms, one a checklist of entitlements for the victim/ survivor and second a report format for police also have been added to the new rules (Annexure)
More details on Support Persons and Police under the new rules have been written below. It should also be noted that the Maharashtra Government has still not formulated State Rules since 2012.
The new rules are still silent on offences committed under the act by minors and the linkage/ applicability of the JJ Act, 2015; Maharashtra State Rules for JJ Act, 2018 and SOP on Rehabilitation of Children in Conflict with the Law, 2016. In the current atmosphere where a bill has been tabled on 7th February 2020 in the parliament for inclusion of death penalty provision for offenders aged 15-18 years, it is necessary that principles of the United Nations Convention of Child Rights (UNCRC – ratified by India in 1992) and JJ Act, 2015 are reiterated and reminded that it is our duty to provide all our children, victims and offenders, an atmosphere of care and protection aiming for reintegration into society.
- Defined under Rule 2 (f) – appointed by CWC to assist child in pre-trial or trial process
- Under Rule 5 (6), “support person may be a person or organisation working in the field of child rights or child protection or an official of a children’s home or shelter home having custody of the child, or a person employed by DCPU”
- Appointment under Rule 4 (8) and Termination under Rule 4 (10)
- Responsibilities of Support Person [Rule 4 (9)]
- Maintain confidentiality of all information (under POCSO, 2010; POCSO Rules 2020 and Indian Evidence Act, 1872)
- Inform child, explain & orient child about procedures etc
- Communicate concerns the child has to relevant authorities formally
- Submit monthly report to CWC till completion of trial [Rule 4 (12)]
- Coordinate with CWC to ensure resumption of school, progress towards healing from trauma
- Be unbiased, impartial and disclose any real or perceived conflict of interest [Rule 5 (10)]
- Eligible to receive fees determined by State Government in accordance with Minimum Wages Act [Rule 5 (8)]
- Responsibilities of CWC w.r.t Support Person
- CWC to appoint after assessment and has responsibility to inform SJPU/ local police [Rule 4 (8)]
- Termination by CWC upon request; reason not required from child; Special Court will be informed in writing [Rule 4 (10)]
- Ensure continued care & protection of child – coordinate with Support person to ensure resumption of school/ change of school, medical needs, healing from trauma [Rule 4 (12)]
- Responsibilities of Police wrt Support Person
- Police/ SJPU to inform Special Court in writing within 24 hours about appointment of Support person [Rule 4 (10)]
- Police to keep parents/ guardians of child, support person informed about all development related to the case (court dates, arrest of accused, applications filed, court proceedings) [Rule 4 (13)]
- Responsibilities of DCPU w.r.t Support Person
- Maintain a list of support persons in the district
- Make funds available for payment under Section 105 of JJ Act, 2015
Responsibility of Police
- Rule 4 (1): Police to share name, designation and contact details with child or person reporting offense
- Rule 4 (3): When information about abuse is received, police to register FIR and give copy to complainant; arrange for emergency medical care if necessary, medical examination, collect and send samples to Forensic lab immediately, inform child & guardian about support services and legal aid available under law
- Rule 4 (4): produce child to CWC within 24 hours (when there is reasonable apprehension that the child is not safe where she/he/they are currently residing
- Rule 4 (10): Police/ SJPU to inform Special Court in writing within 24 hours about appointment of Support person
- Rule 4 (13): Police to keep parents/ guardians of child, support person informed about all development related to the case (court dates, arrest of accused, applications filed, court proceedings)
- Rule 4 (14): Inform child/ guardians about services and entitlements as per Form-A and fill in Preliminary Assessment Report within 24 hours as per Form-B
- Rule 4 (15): specifies type of information that need to be shared – support services and all details and updates related to the case
- public/ private emergency & crisis services
- Procedural steps in criminal prosecution
- Victim compensation benefits
- Status of investigation (using discretion)
- Arrest of and filing of charges against a suspected offender; bail, release or detention status as well
- Schedule of court proceedings & when child is to attend
- Verdict & sentence imposed on offender
- Rule 6 (1): provide for emergency medical care within 24 hours for penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault (Sec 3,5,7,9)
Responsibility of Other Stakeholders to Police
- Rule 4 (2): Childline 1098 to immediately report information of offence to police
- Rule 4 (8): CWC to inform about appointment of Support Person to police
- Rule 6 (5): Medical Practitioner to submit report of condition of the child to the police within 24 hours
- Rule 11: any person coming across pornographic material involving children (child sexual violence images/ video) must report to police or on the cybercrime portal (cybercrime.gov.in)
Annexure – Form A (checklist of entitlements available for child – to be given to guardians by police)
Form B (preliminary assessment report to be submitted to CWC by police)