The Centre is planning changes to a law to allow child sexual abuse complainants to report the matter even several years after the crime, PTI reported. The Ministry of Women and Child Development said on Monday that it would write to the Home Ministry to amend the relevant law.
If the proposed amendment is passed, there will be no time limit within which a complaint must be filed, the ministry’s secretary RK Shrivastava said on Monday. He said the ministry had been getting “several complaints of incidents that have occurred many years ago”.
“The substance of it will be that if you have been molested at some point in time when you were a minor, then you are still entitled to get justice,” said Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. “Only problem I envisage is that how do you prove it? The best we can hope is that people get frightened that they could land in trouble.”
The news comes after an Indian-origin Canadian scientist met Gandhi to discuss her accusation against a relative, who she said had sexually abused her when she was a child. She was unable to file a case in India because of unclear laws. She is 53 now.
Before laws on sexual offences were amended in 2013, oral sex and digital penetration – common in child abuse – came under molestation law, which carries a punishment of up to two years. Such offences must be reported within three years of the crime, according to the “statute of limitations” mentioned in Section 468 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Rape does not have any statute of limitation, but child sexual abuse now comes under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012, which is unclear on what victims – those who want to report the offence after they have turned 18 – should do. Also, the POCSO Act cannot apply retrospectively, which means child sexual abuse offences not involving penile-vaginal penetration and occurred before 2012 still come under the molestation law.