HYDERABAD: Despite having a strong victim support system like Bharosa in Hyderabad city, as many as 52 cases were acquitted by the city’s Child-Friendly Court in a span of 16 months. Ironically, of the 52 victims, only four were contesting acquittal, which means that victims of the POCSO cases went forward with the entire course of the legal battle against the perpetrator. However, due to lack of sufficient evidence or lapses in the investigation, accused in other cases were also acquitted.
The rest 48 cases however ended in the acquittal of the accused persons as the witnesses or victims themselves turned hostile. With the victims themselves dropping out of the cases, the future of the trial becomes grim.
The issue is commonly witnessed in cases where the victims are from other States or districts, and came to the city intermittently, but do not want to pursue the case further. It is learnt that many of the victims even left the city over shame and stigma attached to the rape victim.
“Many times the victims are too poor and economically weak. No amount of counselling and guidance could help such victims as they have to work daily to eke a living. So they prefer not to leave the work and go for court hearings. Moreover, they are scared of adjournments.
There is also a persistent sense of threat they experience from the accused and many back off because of this,” said a Bharosa Centre official. A substantial number of accused persons are acquitted as they are cases of elopement and the act was done with the consent of the minors. However, as per Indian law, any sexual intercourse under the age of 18, is rape and falls under the POCSO Act.
Meanwhile, when 52 acquittals were there in the phase, there were 31 convictions as well and in some of the cases, the victims are just 10 years old or so. Among these 31 convictions, six persons were awarded life imprisonment and 13 were given 10 years of imprisonment. One of the historic convictions was that of a minor getting life imprisonment for raping a minor boy and murdering him.
The fact that so many victims turn hostile is worrying as the accused persons continue to roam freely in the society and be a liability to women’s safety. The situation in other districts is much more vulnerable and robust and hence more Bharosa Centres should come up to prevent such sexual revictimisation, said an official.