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Sunday, January 23, 2022

In Assam, Padma awardee booked for alleged rape of foster child

Following the FIR, the man moved the Gauhati High Court, seeking pre-arrest bail. On December 28, he was granted interim bail, and the court called for the case diary on January 7. 

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: January 5, 2022 1:03:16 pm
AssamAccording to the FIR, the victim, an inmate of a children’s home, had alleged sexual assault for a year by her foster father while she was under his care.

A Padma awardee has been booked under the POCSO Act for allegedly raping a minor while she was under his foster care.

Based on a complaint from a Chief Judicial Magistrate who was briefed by the District Legal Services Authority (DSLA) on December 17, the Assam Police registered an FIR against the man the very next day, invoking sections of the Indian Penal Code and the POCSO Act.

“We cannot comment on it since it’s sub judice, but the investigation is on,” said a police officer investigating the case.

Following the FIR, the man moved the Gauhati High Court, seeking pre-arrest bail. On December 28, he was granted interim bail, and the court called for the case diary on January 7.

In his order, Justice Arun Dev Choudhury said the offence alleged was “serious in nature”. However, interim bail was granted, taking into consideration the “antecedents of the petitioner, his allegation that the instant FIR has been lodged to humiliate and malign his reputation” as well as a counter petition against the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) of the district.

Noting that the FIR did not “disclose any specific statement” of the victim, the court said an interim order would be passed in the “interest of justice”. It asked the petitioner to appear before the police within 7 days.

A police officer said the accused had appeared before them and his statement had been recorded.

According to the FIR, the victim, an inmate of a children’s home, had alleged sexual assault for a year by her foster father while she was under his care.

DLSA secretary Bichitra Dutta said the allegation was “serious”.

“Based on our preliminary findings on the statement from the victim, other witnesses as well as the CWC’s account, the victim was repeatedly subjected to rape for over a year she was under his foster care,” she said, adding that “findings of medical examination, conducted as part of the enquiry, also prima facie support the allegations”.

The victim is currently in a children’s home, under special police protection.

According to the FIR, the victim was placed under foster care of the accused for a period of one year (in August 2020) with the condition that it would have to be renewed.

The FIR alleged that the accused did not renew the child’s foster care deed nor did he place the child before the CWC when the year was up despite multiple reminders from the CWC.

On October 28 this year, the accused produced two children (including the victim) before the CWC, but the CWC “could not arrive at any decision for renewal of foster care” and sent them to a children’s home.

According to the FIR, the issue first came to light when the CWC members approached DSLA’s Dutta on November 30 with the victim’s statement, requesting them to help with legal remedies available.

The DSLA guided them and sent a letter to the CWC chairman on December 8, seeking an action-taken report.

When no report was submitted till December 15, the DSLA sent a show-cause notice to the CWC on December 16, “keeping in view the inaction on the part of CWC” and considering the “nature & gravity of the allegations”. Thereafter, the DSLA began a preliminary inquiry into the matter, recording the statement of the victim as well as ordering a medical examination. The medical report of the victim, according to the FIR, clearly showed signs of sexual assault.

Senior advocate AM Bora, counsel for the accused, said: “There is a background to this case, and it is very important. The CWC has sent several girls to be fostered under his and his wife’s care for several years owing to his philanthropic nature. He has looked after many children.”

“However, a conflict had arisen between the CWC and him when he asked them to reimburse him money used in treatment for the other foster child under his care… There is much more to this case, and that is why interim bail was granted to him even in a case like POCSO,” Bora said.

According to the court order, S Zahan, Additional Public Prosecutor, Assam, said the “social status” of a person should not be a consideration in a case involving such allegations.

An official of the CWC said: “There was no intentional delay on our part. We are only a five-member committee, and our term already expired on August 31,2021. This was an important case and all the members were in different places in the district and thus, it took some time.”

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