Abuse of children
Cases of sexual abuse of children are on the rise in the state and so is the misuse of Pocso Act to implicate rivals or corner the spouse in custody battle.
Cases of sexual abuse of children are on the rise in the state and so is the misuse of Pocso Act to implicate rivals or corner the spouse in custody battle. Police too are either not trained enough to probe such cases or are hamstrung by stringent procedures. TNIE analyses the situation
KOCHI: Kerala has been witnessing a spurt in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act cases and also incidents of misuse of the Act which are posing a major challenge to the state police and other enforcement agencies concerned. In fact, several complaints that turned out to be fake have exposed the lack of expertise among police officers in handling such cases. There have been cases in which people were trapped by grown-ups who use children to level false sexual abuse charges in an act of vengeance.
Justice K Narayana Kurup, former chairman of the State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA), knows better than anyone how Pocso Act is being used to implicate innocent persons.It was because of his valiant effort that an Edakochi native could prove his innocence in a case which was foisted on him by a person in connivance with a few policemen in 2016.
In July 2016, Suresh Kumar, a school bus driver, was arrested on charges of sexually abusing a five-year-old boy inside the bus. A team led by Justice Kurup, who was the then SPCA chairman, found out that the police had used third degree methods on Suresh and that the sexual abuse complaint lodged by the boy’s father was false.
“It wasn’t an easy task and we really put in a lot of effort to prove his innocence. We proved the plot hatched after analysing call data records. The child’s father had animosity with the driver. We analysed the victim’s statement and found that it was impossible for the driver to abuse the child inside the moving bus during a short trip,” Justice Kurup told TNIE. He said the police must carry out a detailed preliminary inquiry before arresting any person in a Pocso case.
Sandhya Rani, former special public prosecutor in the Ernakulam Special Pocso Court, said the Act is being mainly misused by those who fight legal battle for custody of children in family courts. “We should be really careful while handling abuse cases involving children of parents fighting for legal separation. There may be genuine cases, but most of them are fabricated. Even courts are taking a guarded approach while hearing such cases,” she said. In 2019, the Kerala High Court pointed out the growing tendency to misuse the Act and foist false cases in custody battles for children.
State Police Chief Loknath Behera had also issued an order advising officers to probe cases with diligence after several instances of such misuse came to the notice. However, Pocso cases are still being investigated by police officers who are not properly trained for the same. In most cases, investigation is solely based on the oral testimonies of close relatives of the victim. Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights member Nazeer Chaliyam said, “The Pocso Act came into force in 2012. Many officers are still not fully equipped to handle such cases.”
Child Welfare Committee (CWC) vice-president K S Arunkumar said a lot of procedures has to be followed in a Pocso case and these delay the process. A senior police officer said police officers investigating such cases must follow several guidelines. “Apart from collecting the victim’s statement, evidence gathering is a major challenge. It’s a delicate situation because direct questions referring to the traumatic incident must be avoided by the officer who will be under tremendous pressure,” the officer added.
In most Pocso cases, the investigation is solely based on the oral testimonies of the close relatives of the victim