Supreme Court issues notice in plea seeking guidelines for educational institutions to protect children from sexual abuse

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A Supreme Court bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and CT Ravikumar today issued notice in a plea seeking directions in the nature of Mandamus to the Centre as well as state governments to lay down appropriate guidelines for educational institutions in order to protect children from sexual abuse and for the enforcement of fundamental rights of children at the educational institutions.

Colonel Balasubramiam, Sr. Adv, appearing for the petitioner, informed the court that  Incidents where children are sexually abused in school is on the rise despites POCSO Act, 2012 and that the court needs to direct the Center and State governments to issue appropriate guidelines. 

The court on hearing his submissions, issued notice to the centre and states and posted the case for further consideration after vacation.

The plea further seeks that the governments may set up a committee which will ensure the protection of children at school level and ensure that incidents of sexual abuse do not happen.

Filed by one Nakkheeran Gopal, the PIL further seeks that such committee must work efficiently and effectively to prevent any fanatic groups or institutions or persons from committing any sexual abuse, and if any such person or persons are found wrong then they must be immediately arrested and booked under the relevant sections of the POSCO.

A CJI NV Ramana led bench, also comprising of Justice JK Maheshwari and Justice Hima Kohli had on Friday directed the Registry to list the matter before the Bench presided over by Justice Indira Banerjee.

Such direction was passed after the case was mentioned by Advocate Ram Sankar, appearing on behalf of the petitioner.

The plea states that it is the fundamental right of a child to engage and study in an environment where he/she feels safe and is free from any form of physical or emotional abuse or harassment.

It is further alleged that due to the COVID lockdown orders issued by the Government of India, many schools shifted to an online venue, paving way for the sexual predators to abuse children through virtual means.

"A pattern is visible in these incidents of sexual abuse particularly of children at educational institution have primarily been the target at the virtual mode of classes being carried on due to the pandemic situation throughout the country...", the PIL states.

Relying on various new reports on child abuse across states, the plea submits that in spite of alarming rate in the offence against the children especially at school premises, till date no specific mandate or the law or the guidelines have been issued by the respective States.

Accordingly, it is sought that State governments may appoint a DySP level officer in each district who will be the special task officer in that district for ensuring that no such incidents happen.

Further, it is sought that states should ensure that the legal proceedings initiated against the accused persons in all sexual abuse offences are made time bound.

Registration of FIRs on receiving a complaint in respect of a sexual abuse offence is mandatory, and omission of the same should attract a fine of an appropriate amount as directed by the Court, seeks the petition.

The case is likely to be taken up today.

Case Title: Nakkheeran Gopal vs Union of India