Muzaffarpur: A POCSO court in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, has recently sentenced a 60-year-old man to five years of rigorous imprisonment for sexually abusing his minor granddaughter. This case would have continued to gather dust among the scores of pending child sexual abuse cases had it not been for the intervention of the NGO Integrated Development Foundation (IDF) and Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF). The conviction of the accused in this case also underscores the efforts of Civil Society Organization (CSOs) in providing Justice to victims of child sexual abuse.
The matter pertains to Soni Kumari (name changed),10, of the Ahiyapur area, whose mother had registered a case in the Women’s police station, Muzaffarpur, on July 3, 2020. According to the FIR, the accused grandfather had brought the minor girl to his house in the Muzaffarpur town area on the pretext of giving her sweets. He then sexually abused her. The accused also threatened the girl with dire consequences if she revealed the incident. However, the minor girl informed her mother, following which the mother registered an FIR.
But the mother did not pursue the case because of the pressure from the family and the societal stigma attached to child sexual abuse. The case thus remained pending. In February 2022, when the POCSO cases in Muzaffarpur district were analyzed under the Justice for Every Child campaign–an initiative of the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation–the pending case came to the fore.
The activists from IDF Muzaffarpur then visited the minor girl’s house. After verification, the minor girl and her mother were counselled. Then evidence pertaining to the case was collected and collected and analyzed by Justice for Every Child’s legal team. A meeting was arranged with the special public prosecutor, and new charges under the POCSO Act were added to the existing case. A request was also made to the special POCSO judge to hear the case on an urgent basis.
On February 28, 2022, the special POCSO court convicted the accused. He was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. Twenty thousand under Section 8 of the POCSO Act and five years rigorous imprisonment, and a fine of Rs. 30,000 under Section 10 of the POCSO Act. Both the sentences would run concurrently. In case the accused is unable to pay the fine, he would undergo imprisonment for another year, the court said.
At present, the activists of IDF Muzaffarpur have filed an application with the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) for providing compensation to the minor girl.
According to the recent NCRB data, Bihar is among the top five states for the total incidents of crime registered against children. The state registered a total of 1,591 cases under the POCSO Act in 2020. Child rape cases under Section 4 and Section 6 of the POCSO Act stood at 628 in 2020, according to the NCRB report.
To provide timely Justice to victims of child sexual abuse, Integrated Development Foundation has also joined hands with Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation. The national campaign of Justice for Every Child will intervene in 5,000 pending cases of child sexual abuse and child rape across 100 districts in the country. It will also provide mental health support to the victims.
By Mohammed Shakil Anwar; the Muzaffarpur district programme person of Integrated Development Foundation)