Child abuse: Worrisome rise in acquittals in Chandigarh as victims retract statements - Hindustan Times
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Child abuse: Worrisome rise in acquittals in Chandigarh as victims retract statements

By, Chandigarh
Feb 26, 2024 08:38 AM IST

In a whopping 76% acquittals, accused walked free after victims resiled from their statements given to Chandigarh Police

Amid the worrying surge in sexual violence against children in Chandigarh, another disconcerting trend has emerged. A considerable number of victims retract their statements given to the police, leading to the accused easily securing acquittals, a major challenge in the pursuit of justice.

As per figures made available by police, as many as 60 cases were registered under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in 2020. The figure has been climbing ever since. (HT)
As per figures made available by police, as many as 60 cases were registered under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in 2020. The figure has been climbing ever since. (HT)

As per figures made available by police, as many as 60 cases were registered under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in 2020. The figure has been climbing ever since.

In the subsequent year in 2021, the number of cases rose to 65. Continuing the upward trend, 71 cases came to the fore in 2022, soaring further to 87 in 2023.

Of the 196 cases registered between 2020 and 2022, fast-track court convicted the accused in 45 cases, while 46 cases resulted in the accused walking free. As many as 14 cases were cancelled, while the rest remain pending.

While the court’s decision is awaited in a significant chunk of cases, it’s worth noting that in the 46 acquittals, a whopping 76% of the victims (35) resiled from their statement in court.

In seven other cases, the prosecution did not have enough evidence to prove the case in court, reveals a scrutiny of judgments in POCSO cases.

A 78-year-old man, Pritpal Singh, who was facing trial for the rape of a seven-year-old girl in 2021, was let off on May 19, 2023, after the victim and the complainant did not support the prosecution version.

In a similar acquittal on September 15 last year, a 23-year-old man, accused of raping a 15-year-old girl in Maloya, escaped punishment after the victim refused to get medically examined, causing the case to fall flat in the absence of medical evidence.

‘Most accused known to victims’

According to public prosecutors dealing with POCSO cases, in most acquittals, the version of the victims given in court are completely opposite to those given to police under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

“As is the case nationally, even in Chandigarh, a lot of victims are known to the accused, who could be from their own family, neighbourhood or friend circle. Most cases in the city are also reported from colonies or areas, where concentration of migrant population and people from low-economic background is high. As a result, once the case reaches court, the victims are hesitant to pursue the trial process. In a lot of cases, victims are also sent back to their native villages by their families,” said a public prosecutor.

Chairperson of Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CCPCR), Shipra Bansal further explained that in some cases, the complaints were made simply on the provocation of others. Then there were cases of elopement, where POCSO cases were registered on the complaint of parents, but were not backed by the minor girls, she said.

On police’s efforts to fight against child abuse, Chandigarh senior superintendent of police (SSP) Kanwardeep Kaur said police were always prompt in registering and investigating POCSO Act cases.

“Chandigarh has 92% compliance rate in time-bound investigation in POCSO cases as per the rankings on Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences (ITSSO) platform. This is among the top figures in the country,” she said.

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