A day after The Indian Express reported about a Court of Inquiry (CoI) being constituted at the National Defence Academy (NDA) to probe a case of alleged molestation of three schoolgirls visiting the academy by an Army Havildar on December 24 last year, Pune police commissioner Rashmi Shukla on Monday said she had asked the “deputy commissioner of police concerned to inquire”.
When contacted, DCP Basavraj Teli said, “I have spoken to the police station concerned. No complaint has been received from the girls. There cannot be an FIR unless the families of the girls come forward.”
Anuradha Sahastrabuddhe, of city-based Childline, said, “The POCSO Act very clearly states that anyone who comes to know of even an apprehension of sexual offence against a minor has to inform police. Having failed to inform police, the person or institution can be prosecuted and punished. Further, the law also has harsher punishments for personnel of police or military committing the crime.”
Former civil servant and High Court lawyer Abha Singh said, “First, the concerned institution had the responsibility to report the matter to police, they seem to have failed to do it. Further, now that it has appeared in the news and is in public domain, police have begun an inquiry. Also, as per the law, even the information of the crime is sufficient for the police to register an FIR and it is even more crucial as the suspected crime is of this gravity.”
The alleged incident took place on December 24, when a group of students from an Army Public School were visiting NDA and were taken to the screening of a film on NDA, at the Academy’s Habibullah Hall.
In a reply to The Indian Express, NDA had said, “On receipt of the complaint from the girls, the officer-in-charge of the auditorium along with his wife and two serving lady officers intervened and carried out preliminary investigation in the presence of the school teachers. Thereafter, parents of these girls and the principal of the school were contacted regarding pursuing the case and lodging of an FIR.
“They did not want to lodge an FIR and they were assured of a fair inquiry… Upon interaction with the students and their parents, a COI has been constituted. This case does not fall under the ambit of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, as the issue does not involve a sexual offence.”