Ministry of Women & Child Development seeks to curb limitation period for filing child sexual abuse cases

February 13, 2018

The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry is all set to propose a change in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, to remove the limitation period for filing child sexual abuse cases, in order to facilitate the complaint procedure even years after the actual incident took place. 

The changes were proposed at a meeting that took place in January 2018 between the WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi and a 53-year-old Indian origin scientist from Canada, a survivor of child sexual abuse, who was subjected to abuse for seven years between the age of 6 to 13 years.  

The WCD is in the process of writing a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs, proposing an amendment to section 473 of Crpc. The said section empowers the Magistrate to take cognizance of an offence even after the expiry of the limitation period, only if it is satisfied that the delay caused was for a genuine reason.

If the section is amended then any person who was molested at some point in time when he was a minor, shall become entitled to file a complaint even after he/she turns a major. The WCD ministry has also instructed the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to look into the said issue.

Section 468 of the CrPC. provides for the minimum time frame for filing a complaint after an offence has taken place, also called the Statute of Limitations. As per this section, if an offence is punishable with fine then it needs to be reported within six months. Whereas, in case of a crime that involves punishment of not more than one year, the limitation period for filing the case is also one year. If a crime is punishable with imprisonment for 1-3 years, then the limitation period is within three years and for anything beyond a three-year jail term, there is no time restriction for reporting the crime.

On the other hand, the Prevention of Child Sexual Offence Act (POCSO), 2012, that was enacted to prevent child sexual abuse, does not have a clear provision of whether the survivor of child sexual abuse can report the crime after the age of 18 years.
Moreover, the POCSO cannot be applied retrospectively to cases prior to its enactment in 2012 and such cases fall under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Hence, the scientist and the Ministry called for a change in the law, so that it can prevent many more children from falling prey to sexual crimes. 


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