As many as 3,000 cases registered and investigated under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, enacted in 2012, fail to reach court for a fair trial every year, suggesting every day four child victims of sexual abuse are “denied justice” due to the closure of cases by the police because of “insufficient evidence or lack of a clue”, a study released by the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) released on International Women’s Day, has said.
Titled “Police case disposal pattern: An enquiry into the cases filed under POCSO Act, 2012”, the study, carried out by the NGO founded by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, seeks to analyse the pattern of disposal by police of POCSO cases during 2017 to 2019. It is based on secondaty data and information presented in the Crime of India reports for these years published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)
The study regrets, between 2017 to 2019, there has been an increase in the number of cases that have been closed by the police after investigation without filing the charge sheet. One of the most heinous crimes is sexual abuse of children, it says, adding, these crimes are a blot on society and are indicative of the failure of the society to ensure safety of innocent children in the country.
The study reveals that, in a large number (two-ﬁfths) of POCSO cases which were disposed of/closed by the police without chargesheeting, the reason cited was ‘cases true but insufficient evidence, or untraced, or no clue’. In 2019, 43% of cases were closed by the police on this ground as per the final reports filed in court. This is higher than 2017 and 2018.
Among other reasons, ‘false reporting’ was the second most prominent reason for the closure of POCSO cases, the study says, pointing out, while closure of cases on this ground has reduced over the years from 40% in 2017 to 33% in 2019, there has been a rise in the number of cases closed without filing a chargesheet. Therefore, it can be reasonably inferred that investigation of POCSO cases is not being done properly and faithfully.Insisting that this is one area which needs to be addressed promptly to bring justice to the child victims of sex crimes and arrest the rise in the number of sexual crimes against children, the study says, data of from 2017 to 2019 suggest there is an urgent need for courts to expedite the justice delivery mechanism. Victims of as many as 89% of the cases of child sex abuse were awaiting justice at the end of 2019, with the backlog of cases pending investigation is also increasing from year to year.
Study also shows 51 % of cases under POCSO Act are being registered in five states – Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi. This brings out the need for social interventions in these states for better protection of children both within their homes and the society, it believes. The conviction rate in POCSO cases in these states is between 30 per cent and 64 per cent, which suggests the need for better presentation of cases.
The finds that in cases where the victims belong to the poor and marginalised communities, the chances of victims turning hostile during the trial and resiling from the facts in FIR are high, pointing out, this suggests such victims are subject to both coercion and inducements. This happens specially in the cases where the accused is either a family member or a rich and powerful person.
“To fill the gaps and address the challenges in implementation of POCSO Act effectively, it is recommended that all the cases registered under POCSO must be closely supervised by the Districts Superintendent of Police and/or Deputy Commissioner of Police”, said Jyoti Mathur, KSCF director, while releasing the study.
Mathur added, “At this point of time, there is also a need for a dedicated unit in each district/Police Commissioner for investigating cases relating to sexual offences committed against children. Police officers posted in this unit should be specially trained and sensitised and have the correct psychological bent of mind needed to deal with the trauma that women and child victims face.”
Mathur also said, “There is also the need for more Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) exclusively to try POCSO cases in view of the huge pendency of these cases in courts across the country”, offering KSCF’s “fullest support to all the concerned stakeholders in eradicating the menace of child sexual Abuse from the country.”