A year has passed since the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was passed, but police personnel in the state appear to be moving at a snail’s pace in making effective use of this stringent legislation.
Listing out challenges before the police in applying the law, former Director General and Inspector General of Police S T Ramesh declared that wide-ranging departmental reforms and better training were required to ensure that new laws were enforced effectively. He was speaking at a workshop conducted by Enfold Proactive Health Trust on a multi-disciplinary approach to cases of child sexual abuse (CSA) here on Saturday.
Ramesh felt that police personnel must undergo comprehensive training over use of the Act, its associated court procedures and methods of collecting evidence and dispatching it for forensic tests. “New laws are galore but we do not have the resources required in terms of manpower,” the former DGP said, stressing that there was an enormous shortage in number of policemen as well as training infrastructure. “A few years ago, each police official would investigate around 100 cases a year. But now, we are so overburdened that the number has increased to 200 or 300 cases per cop,” Ramesh lamented.
Ramesh also touched upon the need for aspirant policemen to ‘unlearn’ superstitions and prejudices as these would pose hurdles while investigating abuse cases.
Pronab Mohanty, Additional Commissioner of Police- Crime, said that though the State has seven operational special juvenile police units, apathy among policemen towards children was still a problem. “The police have certainly come a long way, but are still not trusted by many people and in some cases, even by other stakeholders. There is an impression that an elitist, specialised organ is undermining the ability of the police,” he said.
Furthermore, Mohanty pointed to barriers in investigating child sexual offences. “Sometimes, the testimony from small children is confusing and difficult to interpret. Some cases get reported several months or years after the abuse actually took place. Often, people change their minds when the trial begins and when the offender is a relative, caregiver or guardian, it’s another issue,” he said. Mohanty added that there were areas of conflict in some provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and the POCSO Act.
Ramesh suggested that a detailed questionnaire could be prepared in English and Kannada for use in handling CSA cases along the lines of a similar tool prepared by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).