Mumbai

Police, hospitals, legal experts unclear on POCSO: survey

Mumbai: Over half of the courts specially designated to try sexual offences against children (53%) didn’t have Special Public Prosecutors (SPP), and only one in around 25 rural police stations have a woman Police Sub-Inspector (PSI), a survey has found. The study was conducted by NGO Prerana’s Aarambh India initiative between 2012 and 2016 across 17 Maharashtra districts.

Also, 64% of rural police stations surveyed didn’t have a separate room to provide privacy to the victim, and only one officer in each police station was trained in the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The survey covered 147 respondents and seven stakeholders: police, hospitals, SPPs, district child protection units, child welfare committees, the Juvenile Justice Board and community-based organisations. According to it, stakeholders are faced with lack of budgetary commitment, inadequate infrastructure and poor quality of human resources.

The 38-page report, released in Mumbai on Monday, highlights POCSO Act provisions not being implemented in the State, including a support person to assist victims, availability of women officers for recording victim’s statements, ensuring privacy and confidentiality.

The police

The study found that the accused and the victim are sometimes taken in the same vehicle to the district headquarters. When the officer trained in the POCSO Act is on leave or transferred, other officers don’t have knowledge of legal provisions to deal with such cases. This, the police admit, is problematic.

64% of police personnel surveyed said they view victims below 12 as minor, who they feel are the genuine cases, and 39% of them said they had sent only cases under IPC sections 375 (rape) and 376 (punishment for rape) for medical examination. Of the police respondents, 45% they hadn’t come across cases of differently abled child victims.

Hospitals

On an average, only 43% of hospitals surveyed knew their responsibilities under the POCSO Act, while 69% said it’s important to mention the elasticity of the vagina or the status of the hymen for an effective medical examination report. 39% of hospitals affirmed their doctors still conduct the two-finger test — it has been banned by the Supreme Court — during the victim’s medical examination. They lacked clarity on medical examination, consent for medical examination and child-friendly procedures detailed by the Act. There is wide variance even on procedures of medical examination, such as age of consent, reporting format, examining doctor, forensic kits and tools, among others.

Public prosecutors

Only 48% of SPPs covered by the study knew their responsibilities under the POCSO Act. The report says in most districts, child-friendly procedures are adopted only when the victim is aged 12 years or less. Also, 83% of prosecutors said there are courts designated for POCSO, but not exclusively dedicated to trying cases under the Act.

A shocking 61% of prosecutors said the defence counsel can directly question the victim in court. As per law, the defence counsel remains present at the time of recording statement of the child under CrPC 164 (recording of confessions and statements). Interaction is allowed only between the accused or his/her representative.

Pravin Ghuge, chairman, Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said, “Much of the study’s findings are true. That’s why we have started training the members of child welfare committees. We are taking measures to sensitise stakeholders so that POCSO can be implemented in its true letter and spirit.”

Dr. Pravin Patkar, co-founder, Prerana added, “The study recommends urgent convergence among the departments, a multi-disciplinary team approach, creation of larger awareness, accreditation of training and trainers, optimum use of the progressive provisions of POCSO Act.”

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2020 3:50:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/police-hospitals-legal-experts-unclear-on-pocso-survey/article23806326.ece

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