Stringent Compliance in Reporting Offences Under the POCSO Act

  • The Court of Appeal demands stringent compliance: The Karnataka High Court emphasised the importance of rigorous adherence to Section 19 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, notably by doctors, in order to prevent perpetrators from escaping legal repercussions.
  • Stakeholder accountability: The court emphasised that under the POCSO Act, all stakeholders, including doctors, are required to report offences.

Why is this in the news?

  • Chargesheet Against a Doctor: The court did not overturn a chargesheet filed against a doctor. He was charged with failing to report an offence in violation of the POCSO Act.
  • Minor Treatment: The case involved the medical treatment of a girl who was admitted to the hospital following an abortion caused by the use of a pregnancy termination tablet.
  • Identifying and Addressing Consensual Sexual Activity and Abuse: Strict compliance with reporting duties is critical to ensuring that crimes involving consensual sexual behaviour, rape, or sexual abuse against children are dealt with appropriately under the law.

Disagreement in Age and Offence Details

  • Disagreement in Age: The girl’s age was first listed as 18 years and three months in hospital paperwork, but was later shown to be around 12 years and 11 months in the POCSO Act complaint.
  • Abortion and Sexual Intercourse: According to the complaint, the girl was forced to have sexual intercourse by her 21-year-old boyfriend, who provided a tablet to terminate the pregnancy, resulting in significant bleeding.
  • Timing of the complaint: The POCSO Act complaint was filed about two months after the girl’s treatment at the petitioner’s facility.

Court’s Analysis and Trial Testing

  • The court dismissed the doctor’s assertion that he had no cause to doubt the individuals who brought the girl to the hospital and stated she was 18 years and three months old.
  • Observations on the Doctor’s Experience: The court deemed it exceedingly unlikely that the doctor, who had 35 years of experience as a gynaecologist, did not recognise the victim’s fragile age.
  • The court stated that the doctor’s claim of ignorance about the victim’s age would be reviewed throughout the trial processes.

Doctors’ Reporting Is Critical

  • To hold offenders accountable for their activities under the POCSO Act, doctors must strictly comply with their reporting requirements.
  • Preventing Offenders from Fleeing Justice: Failure to disclose offences, particularly by medical practitioners, can allow offenders to avoid legal repercussions and continue to hurt children.
  • Protecting the Welfare of Children: Doctors must report crimes promptly in order to protect the welfare and rights of children who may be victims of sexual abuse or exploitation.

Need for State Intervention and Guidance

  • The Role of the State in Enforcement: The court emphasised the importance of the state intervening to ensure strict adherence to Section 19 of the POCSO Act, particularly by professionals involved in medical termination of pregnancy for minors in extenuating circumstances.
  • Offence Prevention in Extenuating Circumstances: By enforcing stringent compliance, the state can prohibit offenders from using extenuating circumstances, such as medical termination of pregnancy, to avoid legal consequences.

Way Forward

  • Specialised training programmes should be provided to sensitise professionals about spotting indicators of child abuse and swiftly reporting suspicious situations.
  • Streamlined Reporting Mechanisms: Creating streamlined and confidential reporting mechanisms within the healthcare system can help to streamline the reporting process and encourage clinicians to meet their reporting responsibilities.
  • Collaboration and Coordination: Effective collaboration among healthcare experts, law enforcement agencies, and child protection authorities is critical to ensuring a coordinated response in cases involving child sexual abuse.
  • Punishment for noncompliance: Strict penalties for doctors who fail to report breaches can serve as a deterrence and highlight the importance of reporting requirements.
  • Monitoring and assessment of the reporting system can reveal gaps, problems, and opportunities for development in order to strengthen the reporting process and improve child protection measures.
Source: V

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