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The News Minute Editor-in-chief endorses ‘no hasty arrest in mutual romantic cases’ involving POCSO Act, later justifies and ‘gives context’

A recent case of a 17-year-old boy in district Cuddalore was mentioned in the circular where a case was registered against him for tying a mangalsutra around a 16-year-old female friend’s neck. It was allegedly a playful act. However, the police got involved and the girl was sent to the Children’s home.

On December 5, The News Minute editor-in-chief Dhanya Rajendran endorsed Tamil Nadu’s Director General of Police’s statement where he had asked not to make hasty arrests in “mutual romantic cases”. She further “hoped” that other states implement such directions as well. In her tweet, she said, “This is such an important directive from the TN DGP. I hope other states emulate it. Don’t make hasty arrests in mutual romantic cases: TN DGP to police on POCSO cases.”

Source: Twitter

Rajendran in her tweet missed out on a very important detail in her tweet. The statement by the TN’s DGP C Sylendra Babu came in the light of the circular issued to the Investigating Officers of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act not to make hasty arrests in mutual romantic relationships, especially for the couples in the tribal communities in the hilly areas. Her tweet gave the impression that the direction from the DGP was targeted to all the cases that fall under POCSO Act which is not true.

Rajendran gave context after netizens called her out

The tweet by Rajendran resulted in sharp criticism from the netizens following which she gave “context” to the matter. Replying to a Twitter user who called it preposterous, she said, “Direction talks about a case involving two minors.” The Twitter user Barbarindian had questioned if the direction was for cases where the girl was minor but the man was not. He asked, “Even if the girl is say 16 and the man 25? This is preposterous.”

In a follow-up tweet, she said, “For everyone who thinks this is a change to IPC etc, nope. The directive is asking cops to use discernment case by case. That arrest should not be the first thing to fall back on.”

In an interesting conversation under the tweet by Rajendran, a Twitter user Monteskw pointed out that based on her tweet, it appeared that the DGP was reading down a legal provision. Replying to him, the Assistant Resident Editor of The News Minute Ranjitha Gunasekaran tried to explain the situation and clarified that this was not the case where one of the partners is an adult.

Gunasekaran said, “HCs and SC have said POCSO not intended to criminalise consensual relations between minors.” When the Twitter user pointed out that only bail was given by the court and the charges were quashed in a matter, she pointed out remarks made by the Madras High Court in 2021 where the court suggested POCSO was not for adolescents and teenagers indulged in romantic relationships.

When the Twitter user pointed out that the High Court did not ask the Police to act in the way it has been projected and the Law “doesn’t recognise any romantic relationships involving minors. In isolated cases courts may give relief,” Gunasekaran specifically mentioned that the circular did not stop the officials from investigating the matter and only says not to make hasty arrests. Her tweet was retweeted by Rajendran. Interestingly, her tweet did not project the situation as explained by Gunasekaran which led to sharp criticism from netizens.

NCPCR to issue notice to TN Govt and TN Police

Speaking to OpIndia, Chairperson National Commission for Protection Of Child Rights Priyank Kanoongo said, “We are issuing a notice to the Tamil Nadu government and Tamil Nadu police. A similar circular was issued by the Maharashtra Police and it was later withdrawn after our circular. It is nothing but an attempt of appeasement in the backdrop of Tribal communities.”

It is notable that on November 29, Kanoongo issued a statement on Twitter. In a series of Tweets, he said, “A large number of cases of exploitation and abduction of minor girls for marriage in the name of love are coming to the fore in the country. Meanwhile, there has been a new debate which is very dangerous and needs to be called out in the public. POCSO law is there in India to protect children from sexual abuse which has been updated from time to time by the Government of India and the Parliament of the country. It is one of the best laws in the world that considers sexual intercourse with minor children as rape and does not accept the consent for sex before 18 years.

He further added, “Like every law, it can be misused to some degree. The possibility of rape cannot be denied, but the increasing incidents of trafficking and sexual exploitation of girls by luring them into love by organized gangs cannot be ignored, from which POCSO is a weapon to protect. To save such criminals the gang that sees a child in Kasab and a misguided youth in Burhan Wani has been activated.”

He said, “The liberal gangs and NGOs etc. are creating a new narrative demanding legalisation of romantic relationships between adolescent boys and girls before the age of 18 years. This gang has become more effective ever since we have started challenging the cases of legalizing the marriage of minor girls in the name of personal law in the courts and the discussion has started for the protection of the girl child in the country.”

It is notable that in the last few years, several High Courts have justified marriage between an adult Muslim man and a minor girl stating that Muslim Personal Law allows a girl to get married if she has attained the age of puberty that is 15 as per the Islamic law.

The circular issued by TN DGP

A consultation meeting was held with various stakeholders on the implementation of the POCSO Act in the state. Madras High Court’s Juvenile Justice Committee, POCSO Committee and other stakeholders attended the meeting. Following the meeting, a circular was issued on December 3 addressing all District Superintendents and Police Commissioners instructing them to first issue a notice under Section 41A of the Code Of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Source: TN DGP Circular

Under Section 41A of the CRPC, the police have the power to call any person to appear before the police to address a complaint registered against him or her. It further suggests that if the person continues to oblige the summons issued under Section 41A, there is no need to arrest that person. An arrest can be made if the person fails to appear at the police station or show unwillingness to identify himself or herself.

Source: Legislative.gov.in

In the circular, DGP asked the police officials to take permission from the higher officials before arresting the accused. However, it has been clearly mentioned that such an approach has to be taken on a case to case basis. The arrests in such cases can be made only with permission from the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) or the Superintendent of Police (SP). In case of permission has not been sought, the officers should make a record in the case diary of why the accused was not arrested explaining the situation based on the investigation.

The circular further pointed out that around 60 per cent of the POCSO Act cases registered in the state involve mutual romantic relationships and men are often arrested and prosecuted due to the provisions under the ACT. The situation with the youths from the Tribal communities in the hilly areas was the main reason behind the circular where it is common for young men to marry girls under the age of 18.

It was pointed out that in such cases when girls get pregnant after the marriage and approach the government healthcare facilities for delivery, the hospital informs the police resulting in a case under POCSO Act against the husband. A recent case of a 17-year-old boy in district Cuddalore was mentioned in the circular where a case was registered against him for tying a mangalsutra around a 16-year-old female friend’s neck. It was allegedly a playful act. However, the police got involved and the girl was sent to the Children’s home.

The circular read, “In several Adivasi and tribal cultures, it is not a taboo for a male to marry a girl who is less than 18 years of age. The state is encouraging the tribals to use the facilities in government hospitals for delivery for good reasons. When a 17-year-old tribal wife goes for delivery to a government hospital, information is sent to the police, a case under the POCSO Act is registered against her husband and he is arrested. If this continues, tribal women will not go for delivery to hospitals and would instead, avail the services of tribal midwives. That apart, Adivasis and tribals will get more and more alienated from the mainstream society, which is not conducive for the state.”

Source: TN DGP Circular

Furthermore, the circular noted that most of the cases registered under POCSO in mutual relationships often end in acquittal. The reasons mentioned were either the survivor marries the accused or the survivor turns hostile.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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