Justice elusive in child abuse cases

Members of National Federation of Indian Women, heading a protest seeking the arrest of K.S.P. Ramesh, Chairman of PPA in a child abuse case, in Puducherry on Wednesday.- Photo: S.S. Kumar

Members of National Federation of Indian Women, heading a protest seeking the arrest of K.S.P. Ramesh, Chairman of PPA in a child abuse case, in Puducherry on Wednesday.- Photo: S.S. Kumar

While the initial months of the year witnessed Puducherry recording its first ever convictions under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, it seems to have hardly served as a deterrent to this horrible crime.

Worrisome trend

An equally worrisome trend in some recent cases has been the association of the accused with centres of power, raising apprehensions over timely justice being meted out to victims.

In a child prostitution racket that surfaced in May last year, nine policemen, including one former sub-inspector, were among the accused.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in a notice sent in November last year to the Puducherry government seeking action taken report with regard to the child prostitution racket, mentioned three complaints it received from Puducherry, and the alleged involvement of police personnel, politicians and businessmen.

In a child sexual abuse case which has surfaced recently, K.S.P. Ramesh, who has served as the Chairman of the Puducherry Planning Authority, was booked under Section 10 of the POCSO Act on December 5, following a complaint of sexual abuse by a 14-year-old girl.

The victim was a student of a school run by Mr. Ramesh, a functionary of the ruling AINRC. He is yet to be arrested.

Protests have been held by the Federation for Peoples Rights, National Federation of Indian Women, All India Students Federation and Left parties’ associations over the last fortnight.

In a statement, G. Sugumaran, secretary of FPR alleged that there was a strong nexus between the police and the ruling AINRC and that the police were trying to protect the accused. The case should be transferred to the CBI to ensure a fair and impartial investigation and justice to the victim, he said.

Govt. supportive of accused

Hemalatha, general secretary of the Puducherry unit of NFIW said, “The government seems to be supporting the accused. We demand the immediate arrest of Mr. Ramesh, and his school licence must be cancelled.”

Rudra Kumar, Deputy Director, Prosecution, Government of Puducherry, said, “Legally, the accused in such a case is supposed to be arrested immediately. It is a non-bailable offence. In most of the recent cases filed under the POCSO Act, anticipatory bail was not given either.”

The Puducherry unit of the Communist Party of India has requested the Centre to intervene in the case alleging a nexus between the police and the ruling party. R.Viswanathan, Puducherry unit secretary, CPI, said, “Why was the accused not arrested when he presented his resignation letter from the PPA to the Chief Minister? It is clear that the police are trying to dilute the case. There appears to be pressure on the victim to change her statement.”

Ms. Hemalatha added, “It is also important that the medical examination for the case be conducted in another State as the government might interfere if it is held here.” Mr. Viswanathan also agreed to this stating that it could be done at JIPMER but not at a government hospital.

When asked about the case, Inspector General of Police Praveer Ranjan said investigation is being done as per normal procedure. “There has been no delay in the processing of the case,” he said. The victim’s statement is yet to be recorded by a magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, he said.

According to information available with the Puducherry government, there have been 42 cases of sexual harassment (abuse and penetration) cases from April 2014 onwards. Of these, 22 cases of sexual penetration took place between April 2015 and December 2015 alone.

The rate of total cognizable crimes against children in Puducherry was 8.2 in 2014 according to the National Crime Records Bureau (rate refers to number of crimes per one lakh population of children).

Child Welfare Committee chairperson Vidyaa Ramkumar said, “Reporting of child abuse cases are on the rise after the sensitisation process, but that does not stop crimes against children. After reporting, parents change stand, fearing consequences.

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Printable version | May 19, 2022 3:33:44 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/justice-elusive-in-child-abuse-cases/article7989992.ece