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Mumbai: Accused Akhtar Shaikh who allegedly raped the minor kept her in a Dargah and then at a friend’s place

According to Swarajya, Mumbai Police reportedly not only declined to mention Akhtar Sheikh's name in the FIR but also ignored invoking the crucial POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, though this being an ideal case to qualify under the Act.

As per a report by Swarajya, the Mumbai Police refused to add the accused Akhtar Sheikh’s name in the FIR lodged against him, for allegedly raping a minor girl in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. The Mumbai Police reportedly not only declined to mention Akhtar Sheikh’s name in the FIR but also ignored invoking the crucial POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, though this being an ideal case to qualify under the Act.

Not invoking POCSO, not invoking SC/ST Act, giving the matter to a sub-inspector when the law clearly states that such cases are to be handled by a DSP or ACP level officer and not recording the victim’s statement under Section 164 are few amongst the many lapses laid out by the Mumbai police in handling this sensitive case. The commission has asked the Mumbai police commissioner to respond in the matter.

As per Swarajya report, on 14 March, a minor girl went missing from Ghatkopar area in Mumbai. When she did not return all night, her parents approached the Ghatkopar police station the next day to file a first information report (FIR). Though the police did register the FIR but messed up the case at the very first level.

Firstly the police chose not to add the name of the accused, Akhtar Sheikh, in the FIR despite the girl’s mother naming him as a suspect repeatedly. The mother’s statement recorded in the FIR simply says that her daughter, aged 17 years, went without her will after being lured by an “unknown person”. Secondly, the police did not add the POCSO Act despite the victim being a minor.

The girl remained missing for four days.

The girl’s mother, who’s a domestic help, has alleged that the police officer who took up her case shouted at her. She even mentioned that the police officer simply ignored Sheikh’s mention.”

The officer named, sub-inspector Sheetal Kanadkhedkar is facing the fury of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), as the victim happens to be a Dalit Hindu.

The victim, who was found on March 19, was sent to a juvenile home, where she continues to stay till date. The mother said that she is allowed to meet her daughter once in three-four days.

“My daughter has been revealing details slowly. She told me that Akhtar Sheikh first kept her overnight in a dargah and then at a friend’s house for three days,” the girl’s mother said.

She furthered that after her daughter’s recovery when they went to the police station to ask the police for further inquiry, sub-inspector Sheetal, hushed them saying that they were trying to give the case a communal colour by making it a Hindu-Muslim issue. This time too, sub-inspector, Sheetal refused to add accused Akhtar Sheikh’s name to the FIR, confirmed the victim’s mother.

Sheikh was arrested only after 10 days on 28 March and was soon freed on bail.

The news was not picked up by any media house and came to the foreground only after a Twitter user wrote about it in a series of tweets.

The mother told Swarajya, “it’s evident that Sheikh lured the girl into going with him. What if he takes her away again after 22 April? She will be forced to give her consent and, as a major, we will have no hope of getting her back.”

A rights organisation named Agniveer took notice of the case and escalated it to the NCSC. On 15 April, the commission sent a letter to the Mumbai police pulling it up for ignoring the due process.

A local activist named Sitaram Juwatkar told Swarajya that when he learnt of the matter, he went to the police with the girl’s mother on April 2, asking for POCSO to be added in the FIR. “Sheetal simply refused. She said we shouldn’t escalate the matter now that the girl has been found,” he said.

However, this is not the first time when such biased cases, where the police have displayed callousness and such indifference in matters of kidnappings of minor girls, especially when the accused is from different religion have occurred.

Swarjya identified two such cases, one from New Delhi and one from Uttar Pradesh — where minor girls were kidnapped in a similar way but the police, in both cases, refused to add the accused’s name and POCSO ACT in the FIRs.

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