Kolkata: The West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) has initiated a survey to ascertain whether there is a need to introduce an “adolescent” age-group, for children aged between 14 and 18 years.
The study has been taken up, as the commission felt after going through several cases that children of the 14-18 age-group have been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, in connection with “cases of elopement”.
In the past six months, after a separate cell to look into the POCSO cases was set up by the commission, it has found around 40 such cases. Anyone up to the age of 17 years and 364 days, falls under the category of minor as per the Juvenile Justice Act. Thus, even if a girl consents to elope with a boy, it would not count when a case under POCSO is started against “an adolescent”, based on the complaint lodged by family members. So, the boy gets arrested and the girl passes through a traumatic situation as legal action is taken as per existing law.
It may be mentioned that one gets immediately arrested after a complaint against him is lodged under POCSO and the minimum punishment is imprisonment for three years.
Ananya Chatterjee Chakraborti, the chairperson of the commission, said: “POCSO is meant for protection of children. So, we have taken up the study to ensure that it doesn’t lead to criminalisation, without an accused juvenile being an actual criminal.”