Every day four child victims of sexual offences are denied justice due to closure of their cases by police because of insufficient evidence, according to a new study.

The ‘Police case disposal pattern: An enquiry into the cases filed under POCSO Act, 2012’ by Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF), is an analysis of the pattern of disposal of POCSO cases by police from 2017 to 2019 and is based on the data and information published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

The study has been released on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

“It has been observed that between 2017 and 2019, there has been an increase in the number of cases that have been closed by the police after investigation without filing the charge-sheet,” the study pointed out.

As the data shows, sexual crimes are increasing in the country over the years.

“While the government recognised the need for a special law and introduced a special legislation to deal with crimes against children, viz., Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO), it is disappointing to see its poor implementation on the ground,” the study noted.

As many as 3,000 POCSO cases registered and investigated fail to reach court for a fair trial every year and four child victims of sexual abuse are denied justice every day due to the closure of their cases by police because of insufficient evidence or lack of a clue, the study said.

“It has further been revealed from the NCRB data that in a large number (two-fifths) of POCSO cases which were disposed- off / closed by the police without charge-sheeting the reason cited was ‘cases true but insufficient evidence, or untraced, or no clue’,” it said.

In 2019, 43 per cent of cases were closed by police on this ground, as per the final reports filed in court, the study said.

“This is higher than 2017 and 2018. Amongst other reasons, false reporting was the second-most prominent reason for closure of POCSO cases. However, closure of cases on this ground has reduced over the years from 40 per cent in 2017 to 33 per cent in 2019,” the study said.

Also, another analysis of the POCSO cases for the same period (2017 to 2019) by KSCF reveals that there is an urgent need for courts to expedite the justice delivery mechanism as victims of as many as 89 per cent of the cases of child sexual abuse were awaiting justice at the end of 2019.

“The backlog of cases pending investigation is also increasing from year to year as the number of cases whose investigation is completed in a year is lesser than the number of cases in which charge-sheets are filed. This gap demonstrates that police are not devoting adequate resources to deal with these grave crimes,” it said.

The study has revealed 51 per cent of cases under POCSO are being registered in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.

“This brings out the need for social interventions in these states for better protection of children both within their homes and the society,” it said.

The conviction rate in POCSO cases in these states is between 30 per cent and 64 per cent, which needs improvement through better presentation of cases in courts as effective detection and conviction are the measures for prevention of a crime, it said.

One of the important facts is that in cases where the victims belong to the poor and marginalised communities, their chances of turning hostile during the trial and resiling from the facts in the FIR are high as such victims are subject to both coercion and inducements, the study noted.

This happens especially in the cases where the accused is either a family member or a rich and powerful person, it said.

“To fill the gaps and address the challenges in implementation of POCSO Act effectively, it is recommended that all the cases registered under POCSO must be closely supervised by the Districts Superintendent of Police and/or Deputy Commissioner of Police,” it said.

“At this point of time, there is also a need for a dedicated unit in each district/Police Commissioner for investigating cases relating to sexual offences committed against children,” it added.

The study recommended that police officers posted in this unit should be specially trained and sensitised and have the correct psychological bent of mind needed to deal with the trauma that women and child victims face.

“There is also a need for more Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) exclusively to try POCSO cases in view of the huge pendency of these cases in courts across the country,” it said. PTI UZM RHL