12 April 2023 3:18 PM GMT
The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently presented a grim picture of literacy rate amongst the people of India, especially in Madhya Pradesh, to highlight the devastating ground realities that ensue after executing the strict provisions of the POCSO Act.Single Judge Bench of Justice Atul Sreedharan observed that illiteracy is so high that people are unable to read or comprehend the...
The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently presented a grim picture of literacy rate amongst the people of India, especially in Madhya Pradesh, to highlight the devastating ground realities that ensue after executing the strict provisions of the POCSO Act.
Single Judge Bench of Justice Atul Sreedharan observed that illiteracy is so high that people are unable to read or comprehend the draconian provisions of the POCSO Act and as such, when the government has failed to control illiteracy of its people, it is unjust to to apply the rule of law that "ignorance of the law is no excuse" without examining the repercussions.
It underlined that the literacy rate in the State of Madhya Pradesh is 69.32%. Of this, the male literacy rate is 78.73% and the female literacy rate is even lower at 59.24%. Thus, close to 40% of the female population in the State is illiterate. In rural areas, the literacy rate is even lower at 74.74% for males and 48.49% for females. Thus, more than 51.5% of the rural female population in Madhya Pradesh is illiterate, it observed.
The Court, in the instant case, asked the victim about her educational qualification to which she replied that she has studied till the 7th standard. However, the Court was disheartened to note that despite reading till 7th standard in Hindi medium, she could not read Hindi newspaper.
“This Court asked her whether she can read the Hindi newspaper to which the answer is an emphatic 'No', which also raises the question as to what is being taught in the government schools of Madhya Pradesh that a child who has studied up to the seventh standard is unable to read a newspaper in Hindi? This also renders suspect the intention of the governance system in the State which apparently seeks to flourish from the illiteracy of its people,” it added.
The Court went on to observe that the prosecutrix in the case in hand comes from a background where her father is engaged as a manual labourer and her mother works in the houses of others doing household chores like sweeping, washing dishes and clothes.
“A description of the society from which the prosecutrix hails from was felt necessary by this Court as case after case after case of offences registered under the POCSO Act in Madhya Pradesh, reveals the same dismal narrative. More than 90% of these cases are from the strata of the society from which the prosecutrix in this case comes from, which is illiterate or quasi-literate, financially impoverished and socially backward.”
Apart from the above, the Court noted, the high rate of unemployment, which stands at 27.5%, hits the rural Madhya Pradesh the hardest. Consequently, many a young couple, where the girl is a minor, are forced elope to adjoining states in search of work as labourers in the unorganised sector, where they cohabit for a while till some day they are recovered by the police.
The Court held that when there is a complete abandonment of the State on two crucial fronts viz., providing a meaningful education to its people and to create employment opportunities the people, the result is the inevitable instances like the present case.
“Such being the sorry state of affairs relating to literacy in the State, it would be downright unjust to apply the rule of law that ignorance of the law is no excuse, as reflected in the maxim “ignorantia juris neminem excusat” without examining the repercussions,” the Court added.
Apart from urging the Law Commission to suggest necessary changes in the POCSO Act, the Court directed the State Government to widely propagate the provisions of the POCSO Act through the print media, television and radio, as it is a bounden duty of the State under Section 43 to make the public aware about the provisions of the Act.
Accordingly, the Court ordered the Principal Secretary, Department of Public Relations, State of Madhya Pradesh that he/she shall
(a) forthwith publish, thrice a week the stringent provisions of the POCSO and the effect of its violation in all prominent Hindi newspapers having circulation in the state;
(b) Disseminate through the local Television channels and FM/AM radio; and
(c) train the teaching staff of all state government schools to convey to the students, the liability under the POCSO. This shall commence forthwith this order being served upon the aforementioned authority.
The Court made it clear that this shall continue for three months and thereafter, the Department of Public Relations can reassess the frequency with which the directions have to be complied with. However, it was directed to continue at regular intervals as required under Section 43.
It cautioned that the Principal Secretary, Department of Public Relations shall be held in contempt for any failure in compliance of the above directions as given by the Court.
Case Title: Veekesh Kalawat v. The State of Madhya Pradesh [Misc. Criminal Case No. 4521 of 2023]
Case Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (MP) 50
Counsel for the Petitioner: Ms. Ankita Sharma, Advocate
Counsel for the State: Mr. Naval Gupta, Public Prosecutor
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