The Union Cabinet on Friday approved amendments to strengthen the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and included the death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children, besides providing stringent punishments for other crimes against those below 18 years of age.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said children should be protected from sexual offences and the Cabinet has approved amendments to various sections of POCSO Act to achieve this.
Addressing mediapersons in New Delhi after a Cabinet meeting, Prasad said the amendments to Sections 4, 5, 6, 9, 14, 15 and 42 of the POCSO Act, 2012, are made to address child sexual abuse in an appropriate manner.
An official statement said Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Act are proposed to be amended to provide the option of stringent punishment, including the death penalty, for committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault on a child.
It said these amendments are aimed at discouraging the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent.
The Act defines child as any person below the age of 18 years. It is a gender-neutral legislation, it said.
The amendments are also proposed to the section 9 of the Act to protect children from sexual offences in times of natural calamities and disasters and in cases where children are administered, in any way, any hormone or any chemical substance, to attain early sexual maturity for the purpose of penetrative sexual assault, it said.
Sections 14 and 15 of the POCSO Act, 2012 are also proposed to be amended to address the menace of the child pornography.
It is proposed to levy fine for not destroying or deleting or reporting the pornographic material involving a child, the statement said.
The offender can be further penalized with jail term or fine or both for transmitting propagating administrating such material in any manner except for the purpose of reporting as may be prescribed and for use as evidence in court.
"Penal provisions have been made more stringent for storing/possessing any pornographic material in any form involving a child for commercial purpose," the official statement said.
Prasad said, "The modification is made to address the need for stringent measures required to deter the rising trend of child sex abuse in the country."