With POCSO cases on the rise, Karnataka Health Department authorises govt. hospitals to procure evidence collection kits locally

At a recent review meeting, it was noted there is a requirement of such kits in all hospitals as, according to rules, the examination of survivors and collection of evidence should not be delayed for any reason

Published - May 15, 2024 07:07 pm IST - Bengaluru

Following a rise in the number of cases booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, in Karnataka, the Health Department has now authorised all government hospitals to procure Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) collection kits locally.

According to a circular issued by Health Commissioner Randeep D. on May 8, comprehensive examination of survivors of sexual offences, provision of appropriate treatment to the survivors, and preservation of DNA-related evidence and other materials are vital aspects of the investigation. A SAFE kit is designed in conformity with the steps of examination of the survivor, as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

“Going by the statistics of examination of POCSO cases in 2022-2023 in the State — a maximum of 241 cases being reported in one district — availability of SAFE collection kits in all hospitals is mandatory,” stated the circular.

Review meeting

At a recent review meeting, it was noted that there is a requirement for such kits in all hospitals as, according to rules, the examination of survivors and collection of evidence should not be delayed for any reason. Hence, it was decided to authorise all district and taluk hospitals apart from community health centres to procure the kits in compliance with the provisions of the  Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurements (KTTP) Act locally, the circular stated.

Mr. Randeep told The Hindu that it is a mandatory responsibility of hospitals concerned to comply with regulations under the POCSO Act for the collection of forensic evidence. “Hence, hospitals are being advised to procure and use the SAFE kits at their level,” he said.

“Wherever required, kits can be procured by district hospitals by using up to ₹1 lakh from Arogya Raksha Samithi (ARS) funds. Likewise, taluk hospitals can use up to ₹50,000 and community health centres up to ₹10,000 to procure the kits through the ARS funds. Even if the amount is less than ₹5 lakh, there should be transparency in procurement,” the Commissioner added.

In June last year, the High Court of Karnataka said that reporting offences under the POCSO Act, particularly by doctors, requires strict compliance, failing which the offender committing the offence on a child will get away from the clutches of law.

Rise in crimes against children

An analysis of the 2022 NCRB data shows that among 28 Indian States, Karnataka recorded the eighth-highest number of crimes against children.

As many as 3,098 incidents of POCSO violations were reported in 2022, of which 2,294 were incidents of child rape (involving 2,321 victims), 590 incidents of sexual assault of children, and 214 incidents of sexual harassment of children, according to the NCRB data.

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