Tamil Nadu

Bane of delays and acquittals

Long before Tamil Nadu rolled out its child-friendly policy in school, in an attempt to ensure the safety of children and help them continue education in difficult circumstances, activists have stressed that the implementation of the POCSO Act was dependent on the prosecution of cases. They point to the high rate of acquittal in cases booked under the Act to raise concerns over the implementation of the Act.

The experience of many victims and their families tends to be nightmarish, given the delays and multiple investigation attempts, depositions and finally, a possible acquittal. A clear trend of acquittal across the districts can be observed from the question under the Right to Information Act on the status of cases between November 14, 2012 and October 31, 2019. In districts like Ramanathapuram, over half of the cases have been acquitted. In fact, recent media reports suggested that the acquittals in the central zone were being scrutinised. There is an appraisal review committee, comprising senior police officers and prosecutors, but the process will have to be initiated by the investigating officer.

Based on the police’s own assessment, the following are the listed as the reasons: Delay in investigation, delay in the process of filing charge sheet, delay in the prosecution signing off on the charge sheet (because of gaps in investigation), besides the delay caused by the backlog in courts.

Shoddy investigation is a key factor in the majority of cases — for delay, and consequently, acquittals, says Vidya Reddy of Tulir. In the RTI response, it is clear from the districts that did provide data that very few appeals were actually happening across the districts, she explains.

Orientation, along with constant updates, is recommended for the police and various levels of the judiciary. In one instance, a constable was under the impression that the all women police could not investigate a case of child pornography, only the law and order police could do that, she says.

There seems to be a great deal of reluctance in some districts to allow registration of cases to touch the magic number of 100, since it is mandated that when 100 cases are registered, a special POCSO Act court should be constituted, experts say. But most districts have several hundreds of cases pending, points out Ms. Reddy, making the case for two special courts where there are more than 400 cases.

Other innovative solutions must also be shared; for instance, in Tiruvannamalai, Salem and Madurai, all cases pertaining to 16-18 years were shifted to the Mahila court in order to reduce pendency of cases, she explains.

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Printable version | May 27, 2022 5:57:15 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/bane-of-delays-and-acquittals/article38276130.ece