The Bombay High Court on Monday took strong exception to the Mumbai Police’s “casual approach” in investigating cases of child sexual abuse and summoned a senior official to explain the delay in probing a complaint of rape of a three-year-old girl allegedly by school staff. The direction to the deputy commissioner of police (Zone X) came after the court noted that the alleged incident had occurred in January and a formal police complaint was registered by the victim’s mother in May, but the police were yet to complete the probe and arrest the accused.
The court also expressed surprise that despite the victim clearly naming and identifying the accused persons, the police was delaying the completion of probe by examining an unnecessarily long list of witnesses. The girl’s testimony was also supported by a coherent complaint made by the mother, it said.
“It seems to us that the police is trying to shield the accused. The victim’s statement and complaint are coherent, and yet, the police has gone on to examine 80 additional witnesses. What is the need for this?” asked the bench of justices Ranjit More and Shalini Phansalkar Joshi.
“This is an extremely serious issue. A child has been abused and raped in her school premises and sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act have been invoked in the complaint.
“Is the police aware of how seriously the court treats POCSO complaints? How can it explain the delay and its casual approach then?” the bench asked.
The prosecution, meanwhile, submitted that the police was trying its best to conduct a fair probe and that a woman investigating officer had been appointed to head the probe.
It said one of the reasons the accused persons–a woman teacher and a male trustee of the school–were not yet arrested was that no other children from the school had made any allegations of abuse.
The prosecution also said the accused persons denied the charges against them and the police had conducted a polygraph or lie-detector test on them and found that they were not lying.
The prosecutor also said the medical examination of the child was conducted in a government-run hospital but the results had remained inconclusive.
“This is all the more shocking. The POCSO Act has provisions to rely upon the victim’s testimony. Doesn’t the investigating officer know this?” the bench said.
As per the plea, the child was abused by the accused persons on several occasions. The offence came to light when the victim’s mother noticed that the child was unable to walk and sit properly.
After much prodding, the child identified the accused persons from their photographs on the school website.