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Questions of age - On SC's ruling on POCSO Act -THE HINDU

The SC has done right in refusing to extend POCSO to adults with mental retardation 

The Supreme Court has shown due restraint in declining to apply the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act to mentally retarded adults whose mental age may be that of a child. It would have been tempting to give a purposive interpretation to the term ‘child’ under POCSO, which refers to those below 18 years of age, and rule that it encompasses those with a ‘mental age’ of a person below 18. It would have been compelling to acknowledge how similarly a child and an adult with inadequate intellectual growth are placed when it comes to sexual assault: both may show the same lack of understanding about the situation they are in and incapacity to protest. No doubt, any expanded definition to encompass both biological and mental age within the POCSO framework would have helped extend its beneficial features to another section of vulnerable persons. The court has chosen the challenging path of analysing the import of such judicial interpretation, along with the question whether expanding the notion of age is within its remit. It has ruled that it is outside its domain. POCSO is meant to protect children from sexual offences. To extend it to adult victims based on mental age would require determination of their mental competence. This would need statutory provisions and rules; the legislature alone is competent to enact them. Judicial conferment of power to trial courts to treat some adults as children based on mental capacity would, in the Bench’s opinion, do violence to the existing law protecting children from sexual offences. It noted that there may be different levels of mental competence, and that those with mild, moderate or borderline retardation are capable of living in normal social conditions.

The case before the court related to the rape of a 38-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. Her mother was concerned about the absence of a friendly and congenial atmosphere before the trial court. She approached the courts for a direction to transfer the case to a special court under POCSO, a law that mandates child-friendly procedures and features during the trial, taking into account her daughter’s mental age, which she said was that of a six-year-old. In a fateful turn of events, the lone accused died during these proceedings, bringing the criminal case to an end. The implication of the Supreme Court ruling is that the onus is always on trial judges to keep in mind the degree of retardation of victims and their level of understanding while appreciating their evidence. It would be unfortunate if cases get derailed because of either the victims’ inability to communicate effectively or because of the court’s difficulty in understanding their words or gestures. It is now up to the legislature to consider the introduction of legal provisions to determine mental competence so victims with inadequate mental development may effectively testify against sexual offenders.

Learn Vocabulary from Newspaper Articles

1) Congenial (adjective)(अनुकूल): kun-jeen-yul


Meaning pleasant and enjoyable
Synonyms - agreeable, appealing, welcome.
Antonyms - incompatible, hostile, displeasing
Example -Because Anu is not a congenial person, people rarely accept her dinner invitations.

2) Onus (noun)  (भार):  oh-nus


Meaning -the responsibility for something
Synonyms:  duty, burden. 
Antonyms - benefit, irresponsibility, exoneration
Example -It is the onus of the applicant to completely fill out the application materials.

3) Derail (verb) (रुकावट): dee-reyl

Meaning -to come off the tracks
Synonyms -obstruct, impede, hinder.
Antonyms -  cooperate, facilitate, assist
Example -Since the significant damage was done to the tracks, the train would derail if it passed over the damage.

4) Compelling (adjective)  (सम्मोहक) : kum-pel-ing


Meaning - captivating; enthralling
Synonyms -irresistible, forceful, reasonable/rational.
Antonyms - dissuasive, unconvincing, unpersuasive
Example - When I read the compelling novel, I couldn’t put it down until I got to the last page.

5)Retardation (noun) (बाधा): ree-tahr-dey-shun

Meaning -  the action of slowing the progress or development of something.

Synonyms - deceleration, lag, slowdown
Antonyms - acceleration, advance, boost, continuation
Example -The scientist found the chemical which induced a retardation of cell growth.

6) Encompass (verb)  ( धरना): en-kuhm-pus

Meaning - to include or contain
Synonyms - include, subsume, incorporate.
Antonyms -  Banish, exclude, detach, apprehend
Example -Our trip around the world will encompass all of the places we have always wanted to visit.

7) Proceedings (noun) (कार्यवाही):  pro-ceed-engs


Meaning -an event or a series of activities involving a set procedure.
Synonyms - (legal case/suit) activities, affairs, happenings.
Antonyms - hollow, idleness, jam
Example -She started the proceedings of the function with a brief welcoming speech.

8) Due (adjective) (उचित): Deww

Meaning - of the proper quality or extent.

Synonyms - proper, right/correct, appropriate.
Antonyms - improper, undue, unjustified, unsuitable
Example -You should drive the car with due care and attention else accident may happen in this city.

9) Diminution (noun) (कमी) : dim-i-nu-tion

Meaning -a lessening or reduction
Synonyms - decrease , abatement ,alleviation
Antonyms - expansion, increase, development
Example: When the jobless rate decreases, there is usually a diminutionin crime as well.

10) Melee  (Noun)  -  हाथापाई

Meaning -  a confused fight or scuffle, a hand-to-hand fight among several people
Synonyms - Fray, fight, riot, clash
Antonyms - Peace, harmony, compromise, agreement
Example (English) - A wild melee broke out in the lunchroom, with kids throwing water bottles and lunch boxes at each other.
Example (Hindi) - एक भयानक हाथापाई भोजन कक्ष में शुरू हो गयी जब बच्चे एक दुसरे पर पानी की बोतले और खाने का डिब्बा फेकने लगे |

Now assume the article as a Reading Comprehension, try to answer the following questions-
  • What is the purpose of the POSCO act ?
  • According to the Supreme Court, who is responsible to keep in mind the degree of retardation of victims and their level of understanding while appreciating their evidence?
We have giving you some words from the article. Try to make sentences with these words in the comment section which will be reviewed by us.
  • Restraint
  • Notion
  • Ruling
  • Acknowledge
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