Police officials at Thalaignayar say they are only aware of the IPC

Even as protests demanding stringent laws to deal with rape cases sweep the national capital, an exclusive law, already in force for protection of children from sexual offences, has been apparently overlooked by the police in the case of rape of an 11-year-old girl here in Thalaignayar on Friday. The sexual assault was brought to light on Saturday, and the girl has since been admitted to the Thiruthuraipoondi Government Hospital, which is still awaiting consent for forensic tests.

Even though the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act is in force since November, the police, instead of booking case under this law, have filed case under Section 450 (house trespass to commit an offence) and Section 376 (rape) of the IPC.

The enactment of the Act was seen as a watershed as it facilitates shifting burden of proof from the survivor to the accused. The Act mandates child-friendly procedures right from the beginning of the trial. The Act has been framed since the IPC does not cover all forms of sexual offence and it fails to distinguish between adult and child survivors.

When contacted, officials at a local police station said they were only aware of the IPC, and added that “whatever changes needed may eventually be made.” Non-registration of the crime under the Act exposes the child survivor of the crime to series of insensitivities of the investigating authorities.

Starting from special courts to deal with the trial, the Act lays down a series of procedures to be followed, insulating the child survivor from the trauma and multiple victimisations during the course of investigation and trial. A significant feature of the Act is the conclusion of the trial within a year.

The Act is a powerful law and mandates the State to bear the costs of support services for the survivor, says Kannayan, a freelance consultant on child rights and former field officer under the Department of Social Defence. “Wanton lapses in investigation can be charged with abetment,” he says.

Pointing out that the law also provides for interim compensation during the trial period, he says the District Child Protection Officer should have taken suo motu cognisance of the incident from media reports, visited the child and streamlined the investigation.”

The Child Welfare Officers (CWO), designated for police stations, are uniformed sub-inspectors with additional charge as CWOs.

In fact, the first statement from the girl was collected by an SI on Saturday in violation of the Act.

When The Hindu checked on Sunday evening, no child welfare officer had visited the girl.

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