Despite several training courses which the UT Police personnel have been attending to implement the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the police have not been following the mandate of the Act.
Child Welfare Commission (CWC) chairperson Neil Roberts points out that only 11 cases have been reported to them despite 120 cases being registered by the police last year under the POCSO Act. “As per the mandate of the POCSO Act, the police are supposed to inform the CWC within 24 hours of registering the case after which we swing into action. The police, however, inform us only in those cases where the child needs a shelter,” he says.
Superintendent of Police (City) Parvinder Singh seems unaware of the mandate and says that they will look into it. “If there is a lapse on our part, we shall rectify it,” he says, adding that in cases where the child needs protection or is rescued, the CWC is immediately informed.
Roberts maintains after the zero FIR is registered against the accused, CWC is supposed to be informed. “After a child takes a stand and reports a crime against him/her, we have a panel of counsellors/support officers who help the child with the entire judicial process,” he says.
The support officer remains with the child through out.
Meanwhile, a team of CWC officials assesses the child’s living conditions. “In most of the cases which are reported to the police, the accused is either a neighbour, a family member or someone known to the child,” says Roberts. He adds that if the CWC officers find that the environment wherein the child is living is hostile, the child is to be immediately shifted to Snehalaya or any other home for proper protection.
After the assessment of the child’s environment is done, the support officer assigned to the case takes the minor to a “field trip” to the courts and the police station, explaining the judicial process. “The child is motivated to remain firm on their stand and every court hearing is monitored by the support officer,” says Roberts.He says that UT CWC has a panel of about 25 trained support officers who have no cases to monitor. The police do not have an officer who is devoted only for cases related to the POCSO Act.
“Though the Chandigarh Police had taken the initiative to form women and child support desks at each police station with women Sub-Inspectors heading them, these officers are also looking at other cases. Also, there is no liaison of these officers with CWC so that we can keep tabs on the cases,” adds Roberts.
Advocate Manjeet Kaur Sandhu who is handling many such cases in the special court for crime against women and children says that the police and judicial officers are also insensitive towards such cases. “Many times we have witnessed that the police officials sympathise with the accused. It may be because most of the cases which are being reported in Chandigarh are not entirely correct, but as per law, even if a minor had a consensual intercourse, it is to be treated as rape, and the law officers forget that.”