SATISH RAGDE V STATE OF MAHARASHTRA- A U-TURN FOR CHILD RIGHTS?
Nikhilesh Koundiny, 3rd Year, Symbiosis Law School, Pune
January 19, 2021, can be considered as a dark day in India for the advancement of child rights. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and various media networks have been targeting the above case which is said to be an erroneous judgment that may have too many adverse repercussions for children of tomorrow. The judge in the following case charged the accused under the Indian Penal Code and not under the specialized law of Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) for squeezing the breasts of a 12-year-old child. While the district court charged the accused with both POCSO and Indian Penal Code, the High Court reversed the decision while stating that “skin to skin” contact was absent and hence didn’t qualify as an offence under section 7 of the POCSO Act. The accused was punished under the Indian Penal Code but this blog discusses why such a decision is against the laws made for children and why such a decision sets a wrong precedent.
CHILD RIGHTS IN INDIA
Children’s rights have always been at the forefront of the Indian legislature and judiciary as they are the future generation. The Constitution also imparts special rights to children under various articles including the fundamental right to special provisions under Article 15(3) of the Constitution. Slowly legislators understood that there needed to be provisions for the protection and fruitful development of children around the country. Legislations supporting this vision were introduced such as the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000/2015 and the POCSO Act, 2012. Having seen that 53 percent of children in India face some form of sexual abuse the act was introduced for lowering this number and acting as astringent legislation for punishing offenders.
In fact, the Ministry of Women and Child Development in their guidelines under section 39 of the POCSO Act, 2012 has laid down certain principles when courts take a decision under the said Act:
Best interests of the child- the act being envisioned for children must guarantee the right to protection and development for the child. Hence while taking the decision the courts must take into consideration the interests of the child and the effect of the decision of the child.
Right to compensation- the guidelines also enumerate that a victim must be awarded compensation for her rehabilitation and relief caused due to the incident.