The Kerala Police has come under heavy criticism for arresting K Satheesh, the theatre owner, whose information eventually led to the arrest of the accused in the case of the molestation of a girl by Moideen Kutty, a businessman, with the consent of her mother in a cinema hall. The Kerala Police has arrested the accused and the mother under the POCSO Act. K Satheesh had informed the Childline instead of the Police.
According to the Superintendent of Police, Mallapuram, Pratheesh Kumar, the arrest was part of a routine procedure and that Satheesh was arrested for not informing the Police directly about the crime. Speaking to OpIndia, SP Pratheesh Kumar said, “The criticism is absolutely wrong. We are acting according to law. As per law, it is mandatory to inform the Police or the Special Juvenile Unit for anyone who has knowledge of such a crime. These are the only two options. The incident happened on the 18th of April and for 7-8 days the information was not passed to Police. Childline informed the Police on 26th. That’s how the Police came to know.” He went on to add, “It’s a part of ongoing investigation only.”
When asked about whether the Police plans to pursue the charges against K Satheesh or drop them, the SP replied, “It’s not a matter of whether we will pursue the case against someone or not. What we are doing is that we are investigating the case thoroughly. So whosoever is coming within the purview of this case who has committed an offence, we will take action against him. We are still investigating. There is also a general rumour going around that the man informed the Police, he did not.”
Section 19 of the POCSO Act mandates that the information should be passed either to the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the Local police. Section 21 of the same Act reserves a punishment extending up to 6 months in prison or a fine or both for failing to report the incident to the appropriate authorities mentioned above.
The Kerala Police’s statement also raises questions that remain unanswered at this point. First, being was this arrest avoidable. As aptly pointed out by Journalist Dhanya Rajendran of TheNewsMinute in her Facebook post, Childline says that out of all the child molestation cases reported in the last 5 years, 80% have been reported to Childline first. In that case, the pertinent question to ask would be whether Kerala Police has to date, arrested and investigated everyone who first informed Childline and not the police directly. And if not, what was the specific reason to arrest K Satheesh who even provided the specifics of the vehicle registration information and CCTV footage. Also, unless the Kerala Police has evidence to prove Satheesh leaked the video to others (as alleged), the arrest would seem like a vendetta. The police have also been accused of sitting on the case for a long time before finally arresting MoideenKutty after the CCTV footage was aired on a local channel. Many have raised the question that if the police start going after the ones who bring such crimes to light, the adverse effect might be staggering. People might not come forward in the future for fear of being persecuted. How this case unfolds in the future, remains to be seen.