Protections of Children from Sexual Offences Act (the POCSO Act) 2012 is a legislation aimed to secure protection of children from offences such as sexual harassment, sexual abuse and pornography amongst others. This law is applicable to offences against children below the age of 18 years. The primary feature of this legislation was to ensure the existence of a child-friendly environment for the victims during the proceedings and even after the completion of the proceedings. The Delhi High Court, in an appeal filed before it challenging the conviction order of the Trial Court, iterated upon the application of the legislation as being gender-neutral.
The appeal was filed by the convict and heard before a Bench of Justice SP Garg and Justice C Hari Shankar against the conviction order passed by the Additional Sessions Judge under Section 6 of the POCSO Act. as stipulated under the act, the definition of ‘child’ under Section 2(1)(d) of the Act gives an overall general application to the commission of offences against victims below the age of 18 years, irrespective of their gender. The Bench, while referring to the judgement passed in Alakh Alok Srivsatava vs U.O.I., 2018 SCC 478, opined as follows:
“ 45. Also, as noticed in Alakh Alok Srivsatava (supra), the POCSO Act is gender-neutral. It does not, therefore, discriminate or distinguish between a boy and a girl, as victims of sexual offences. The jurisprudence that has developed, with respect to the testimonies of girl-victims, as witnesses would, therefore, apply, so far as the POCSO Act is concerned, mutatis mutandis to boy-victims.”
While emphasizing on the application of the act as gender neutral, the Court further upheld the conviction whilst reducing the sentence awarded to the convict from life imprisonment to 15 years rigorous imprisonment on the following premise:
“The right to breathe free, in the open air, is a constitutional guarantee, preambularly promised to every Indian denizen, and, for the citizenry of the country, stands sanctified by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Permanent extinction of the said right, for life, must, therefore, necessarily visit only the most hardened of offenders, in the most extreme cases. The ―quality of mercy, unstrained, must always temper the hard scales of the law, if a just balance is to be achieved”
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