BENGALURU: Karnataka is the first state in India to come up with a standard operating procedure for Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (2012).
The guidebook was released on Sunday by Chief Justice of High Court of Karnataka Abhay Sreeniwas Oka.
The SOP details the procedures to be followed by all stakeholders when a child sexual abuse case comes up and has been compiled by several subject matter experts.
Speaking to TNIE on the sidelines, Suja Sukumaran from NGO Enfold Trust which contributed to the SOP, said, “There are several stakeholders involved when it comes to a child sex abuse (CSA) case — judiciary, police, support person who help morally and to navigate the legal process in a child-friendly way, child welfare committee, etc. All of them should follow a uniform procedure which should not vary from district to district or from one police station to the other.”
Sukumaran said, “For example, the child need not go to the station to record a statement, the police has to come to the child. They have to be in plain clothes and several times this procedure under POCSO Act is not followed. Medical personnel should give privacy to the child during examination.”
Though there is a screen that shields the victim from the accused during a court hearing, the child often ends up catching a glimpse of his or her perpetrator in the court corridors while waiting for their hearing.
“This is enough to traumatise the child again and they end up going mum during the hearing. The dos and don’ts for police, forensic science lab, medical personnel, mental health professional, public prosecutors, support persons is detailed in the SOP,” she added.
Justice B V Nagaratna, HC Judge and Chairperson Juvenile Justice Committee and Committee to monitor the pending and progress of the case filed under POCSO act-2012, said in her address to the audience,” Of the 5,142 POCSO cases registered in Karnataka, Bengaluru Urban has the highest (1,135 cases) followed by Bengaluru Rural, Dakshina Kannada and Mysuru.
Chief Justice of HC Karnataka, Sreeniwas Oka said, “There is a need to sensitise judicial officers and public prosecutors when it comes to handling POCSO cases. 40 per cent of the posts are vacant at present and three courts at times, have one prosecutor. This SOP is a step in the right direction and we have to keep updating it every year or so.”
Former Chairperson of The Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Dr, Kripa Kumar Alva said the work to implement the SOP started nearly 1.5 years ago and there is a need to be sensitive to the mental health of the child.
Dr Shekar Sheshadri, senior professor from National Institute of Mental Health Sciences conducted a training session as part of the workshop on POCSO Act.
He explained the immediate impact on the victim and long term effects.
“The trust and vulnerability of the child has been manipulated when he or she undergoes CSA. They feel powerless as their body territory has been invaded against their wishes.
"The offender transmits misconceptions about sexual behaviour and this leads to the child having a confusion of sex with love and care. The offender blames or degenerates the victim and the child infers guilt and shame,” he said.
Former DGP of Karnataka, S T Ramesh spoke about the need to go beyond the call of duty to ensure the child is not re-traumatised in court or made to repeat his or her statements several times.
He spoke about the need for child- friendly courts and how the police and judiciary can ensure that.
“The police often faces a shortage of resources such as women police officers at night or a police vehicle. Despite these constraints, the police must go beyond their call of duty and do what is in the best interest of the child. For example, never take the accused and the child in the same police vehicle,” Ramesh said.