Justice P.N. Prakash, Judge of the Madras High Court, on Saturday, said the police should exercise restraint while arresting persons under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, 2012, in cases of love marriages.
The Greater Chennai City Police and the Department Prisons and Correctional Services, in association in with PRISM, an NGO, conducted a one-day training programme for senior police officers for the successful implementation of Paravai (Personal Attitude Reformation Assistance Venture Affirming Identity), a programme that aims to rehabilitate young first-time offenders in the city.
Addressing the police officers, Justice Prakash said, “In POCSO cases, you are arresting hastily, people whose only crime was a love marriage. There is no criminal act on their part. It is a hormonal problem... You will have to think before arresting these people.. We will have to make conscientious decisions.”
“You are arresting the young man who is in love with a girl and sending him to prison for this offence. Later, the girl turns a hostile witness. Ultimately, the case ends in an acquittal. What sin has he committed in loving a girl who is under the age of 18 years? Why should he be given such punishment in society?” Justice Prakash said.
Drop-in centres for deaddiction
Greater Chennai City Police Commissioner Shankar Jiwal said, under the Paravai programme, there was a proper engagement with youngsters. The government had also sanctioned funds to the tune of ₹90 lakh for de-addiction programmes he said. “Drop-in centres will be set up where we will have social workers, sports trainers, food and refreshments. This is a unique programme in the country,” said Mr. Jiwal.
‘Use discretion with first-time offenders’
Director General of Police, Prisons, Amaraesh Pujari said the police must exercise their discretion under the amended section 41 A, of the Criminal Procedure Code. After the section has been amended, it is under the discretion of the police to not arrest any offender where the punishment for the crime is less than seven years. It should be certainly implemented in cases of first-time offenders such as juvenile offenders, Mr. Pujari said.
He also wanted the city police to conduct a study on how many cases, and in what percentage of cases, this discretion has been exercised in favour of the accused by not arresting him. “Unless It is absolutely required for sending the first-time offender to prison, it should not be done,” said Mr. Pujari.
Driving licences were given to the youth who were trained under the Paravai programme. Senior police officers were also present on the occasion.