The Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act came into effect in 2012. However, even though there have been many training facilities to teach the police force in Chandigarh how to put it into practice, the personnel have not being following the instructions of the Act diligently.
According to Child Welfare Commission (CWC) chairperson Neil Roberts, just 11 cases have been reported to them despite 120 cases being registered by the Chandigarh police last year under the POCSO Act. He told the Indian Express, “As per the mandate of the POCSO Act, the police are supposed to inform the CWC within 24 hours of registering the case after which we swing into action. The police, however, inform us only in those cases where the child needs a shelter.”
In fact, according to the article the Superintendent of Police (City) Parvinder Singh, seemed unsure of the mandate, saying that if the police force has made a mistake it will rectify it. He added that when a child needs protection or is rescued, the CWC has been informed.
According to Roberts, after the victim files a zero FIR (a complaint to the police that can be made in any police station, regardless of where the crime occurred), the police are to inform the CWC. If the CWC believes the child to be in unsafe living conditions (especially as abuse often occurs within family and friends circles), the child is shifted to a new home.
The CWC then attempts to help the child understand the judicial process with counseling and support officers, who are meant to be with the child throughout. The assigned support officer takes the child on a visit of the court and the police station in order to become comfortable with the process. “The child is motivated to remain firm on their stand and every court hearing is monitored by the support officer,” Roberts explained.
However, at present all these procedures to help victims of child abuse are in vain as the support officers of the UT CWC have no cases to oversee.
“Though the Chandigarh Police had taken the initiative to form women and child support desks at each police station with women Sub-Inspectors heading them, these officers are also looking at other cases. Also, there is no liaison of these officers with CWC so that we can keep tabs on the cases,” said Roberts.
Child advocates are also concerned that often the crimes are not taken seriously. Advocate Manjeet Kaur Sandhu, who has handled many crimes of abuse against women and children, said, “Many times we have witnessed that the police officials sympathise with the accused. It may be because most of the cases which are being reported in Chandigarh are not entirely correct, but as per law, even if a minor had a consensual intercourse, it is to be treated as rape, and the law officers forget that.”
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