Updated: March 1, 2021 5:00:21 pm
Emphasising that police officers of Jharkhand’s East Singhbhum district failed to inform the East Singhbhum District Child Welfare Committee (CWC) about an incident of gangrape of a 17-year-old, as is mandated by law, the Committee’s district chairperson has written to top police officers that the police, stating that the police did not follow the Juvenile Justice and POCSO Act “faithfully”.
The letter, signed by East Singhbhum CWC chairperson Pushpa Rani Tirkey and addressed to the Jamshedpur SSP, has pulled up the police for keeping the Committee’s members “in the dark” on key cases.
The CWC, a quasi-judicial agency, is the final authority on children in need of care and protection.
The crime took place in East Singhbhum district on the night of January 31. In her letter, Tirkey wrote that when CWC members learnt about the incident and went to the police station concerned (name of station withheld to protect victim’s identity) to meet the minor, they were not allowed to meet her.
Stating that the minor is pregnant and stays with her grandmother, Tirkey, while speaking with The Indian Express, quoted from the letter: “She got pregnant earlier (from another person); it (pregnancy) came to light during her medical test. This is more than a strong reason why she is in need of care and protection. We still don’t know what has happened to the girl.”
“Whatever the issue, POCSO Act mandates the police to inform CWC, if not production (of the child concerned). The police cannot undermine a judicial institution meant to protect interests of children,” Raj Mangal Prasad, a national resource person on JJ Act who has conducted several workshops in Jharkhand on implementation of the law, said over phone from Delhi.
What law says on police informing CWCs
CWCs are designated by law as final district-level authorities for care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of “children in need of care and protection” – or CNCP. In cases of sexual abuse, the Juvenile Justice Act defines CNCP as any child “who has been or is being or is likely to be abused, tortured or exploited for the purpose of sexual abuse or illegal acts”. Rules under POCSO Act make it mandatory that if the police have reasons to believe that the child is without a home or paternal support, or is in any institution or when a perpetrator is in the same house, among others, the victim has to be produced before CWC.
Prasad said that law enforcement agencies need to have a broader understanding of the CWCs’ role.
Jamshedpur SSP Tamil Vanan could not be reached despite several calls.
Kolhan DIG Rajeev Ranjan said, “I have not received any complaint. If there is any complaint, let them meet me.”
Avinash Kumar, Principal Secretary, Women and Child Development Department, the nodal agency for CWC, said: “This should not have happened, I will look into the issue. Every institution must be respected.”
In the letter, the CWC stated that its members were not informed of the gangrape even 72 hours after the crime, and that the members learnt about the incident through media reports. Tirkey said that they went to the police station concerned (name withheld to protect victim’s identity) on February 2 to meet the girl, but were refused.
The letter – Tirkey shared the contents with The Indian Express – stated: “We were asked to wait since the police station in-charge was busy. We waited about half-an-hour but the station in-charge did not meet us. He did not even bother to call the CWC till date. Moreover, the girl was not presented and was kept away from CWC in the police station. The authorities handling the case had not informed the district CWC, as is mandated under Pocso Act.”
“Worried” about the victim, Tirkey said they tried to call senior officers but calls went unanswered.
“The CWC fails to understand why the committee was kept in the dark. Why was the CWC misled? Why did the PS in-charge not report the matter to the CWC,” the letter stated.
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