HC for more stringent law on child abuse
2 May 2009, 0412 hrs IST, TNN
NEW DELHI: Alarmed at the growing instances of child sexual abuse, the Delhi High Court has called for a more stringent law for deterrence effect,saying the definition of rape under section 376 IPC should be made age and gender neutral.Justice S Muralidhar was hearing the appeal of a man sentenced to two years imprisonment for committing "digital rape'' (inserting finger in vagina) of a five-year-old girl. The judge was upset that lack of a suitable law prevented the courts from inflicting the same punishment on him as that reserved for a rapist."The offence of a child sexual abuse is an extremely grave one. Innocent and tender children are abused sexually through a variety of means, one if which is the present case. Such incidents leave a deep scar on the psyche of the child and has the potential of adversely affecting the child's emotional and mental development... the harsh truth is that these incidents are more frequent than we imagine and very often goes unpunished by the child suffering the trauma silently,'' the court observed, dismissing one Tara Dutt's appeal.HC lamented how the courts hands were tied as the crime committed by Dutt, 54 at that time and father of four children, is not recognized as a heinous crime, resulting in him being convicted under section 354 IPC (outraging modesty of a woman) and not 376 IPC (rape)."Despite the report of Law Commission of India lying with the government for over nine years and the Supreme Court in 2004 hoping that the Parliament would make appropriate changes, it is a matter of grave concern that nothing has been done till date. The absence of a stringent law can only have the pernicious effect of crime continuing undeterred,'' HC added, saying it was high time that definition of rape was made "age and gender neutral'' so that cases like Dutt's could be dealt with severely.According to the prosecution in June 1996, the victim complained to her mother that in her absence Dutt, a distant relative, committed digital rape. Following this, her mother lodged an FIR with the police and criminal proceedings were initiated against him.