Although the police team in Navi Mumbai claim to have taken every possible step to reduce crime rates in the city, sexual offences against children have increased by 26% from January 2016 to December 15, 2016.
According to sources from the city crime branch, as many as 129 cases under different sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, between January and December 15 in Navi Mumbai. There is a clear increase in the number of registered cases from 103 cases registered in 2015. What is alarming is the fact that the number of registered cases in 2014 was only 31.
Earlier in December, Nerul police had detained the Principal of MGM School, when hundreds of parents staged a protest against the rape of a 13-year-old girl by a teacher in the school premises. The teacher allegedly raped and impregnated the girl in September, but police took no action to arrest him. He was later arrested in Delhi.
The figure shows that sexual offences against children in Navi Mumbai have increased by almost 26% in 2016. The police claim to have solved around 95% of these cases.
These children were either raped, molested or sodomised by culprits who found them alone or took them to lonely places. Surprisingly, in a majority of the cases, these culprits were known to the victims as their family members, relatives, school bus drivers and even their fathers.
Apart from POCSO, many of these accused were booked under section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and section 377(unnatural offences) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Speaking to Bayside Journal, Nitin Pawar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Branch) Navi Mumbai said, “Most of the child abuse cases take place within the four walls of the house. So their parents or family decide whether an incident will be reported to the police or not. Earlier, the parents thought that reporting of an incident could create a problem in the child’s future. But the scenario has changed and more and more people are approaching the police now. Because of this the number of total crimes might have increased. On the other hand, the offenders are now scared to abuse a child or touch him or her inappropriately because of the stringent laws. An accused booked under POCSO may have to stay in jail for several years. So we feel the total number of such crimes has actually decreased.”
The police, however, express their helplessness when it comes to preventing such crimes. A senior crime branch official on condition of anonymity said, “We can take action to prevent chain snatching, house break-ins, or to ensure safety of women on roads. But what can we do when an uncle molests his niece or a father rapes his daughter at home? We get to know such incidents only when some family members come to us and registers a case. In such cases, we arrest the accused only after the case is reported”
Previously, many people were unaware of the POCSO Act that was introduced in 2012. They were also hesitant to report a sexual assault case to the police because of various reasons.
Child Sexual Abuse Laws in India
Laws on child sexual abuse in India have been enacted as part of the nation’s child protection policies. The Parliament passed the ‘Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011’ regarding child sexual abuse on May 22, 2012.
Some Facts to Take Note of
Since 2012, only four accused booked under POCSO in Navi Mumbai, have been convicted by the court.
The Uran police arrested one teacher for sexually assaulting several students of his school in 2012. The principal of that school was also arrested for her alleged involvement in the crime and both of them were booked under POCSO. They were later convicted by the court and are in jail now.
Dattatray Rokde, 53, a resident of Kopri village, raped and murdered a 5-year-old girl, who stayed in the same building in January, 2013. He was arrested by the APMC police after two days. He was convicted and a special Thane court ordered him to be hanged till death.
The fourth convicted accused was arrested by the Khanda Colony police.
The Panvel Taluka police arrested a 22-year-old man from Assam for allegedly sexually assaulting a minor girl from Arunachal Pradesh on December 8. The accused had lured the girl to come to Mumbai on the promises of marriage.
The Kharghar police arrested a 31-year-old man for sexually assaulting a minor girl of his neighbourhood in September 2016.A 22-year-old man from Nerul who allegedly sexually assaulted his minor niece, was arrested by the police in August.
The police say that in several cases the accused and the complainant make compromises outside of court. Therefore, the conviction rate is low in such cases.