Offences against women and children: HC pulls up cops for shoddy investigations

The Bombay High Court at Goa has directed the state Director General of Police to hold an inquiry into the conduct of his officers while noting that there was “a certain element of casualness, insensitivity and at times, even apathy in investigations particularly in matters involving sexual offences against women and children.”

Upholding the acquittal in yet another case where the alleged perpetrators of crime against children, especially the girl child, the court felt that “there is real danger of investigating agencies gaining an impression that this is tolerable or that this is the new normal.

“Of late, we are coming across the cases of shoddy and insensitive investigations particularly, in matters involving sexual offences against women and children. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult for the Courts to convict or sustain the conviction of perpetrators of such crimes,” the Bombay High Court bench of Justices MS Sonak and MS Jawalkar said.

“Utmost vigilance and sensitivity is the need of the hour if we are to protect our children’s future,” the High Court said.

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“There should be a serious enquiry into the lapses in this matter and ultimately if any of the police officials involved are found to have misconducted themselves then some suitable action is taken against them in accordance with law. Such enquiry must be held and concluded as expeditiously as possible and in any case within six months from today,” the High Court noted, adding that it deliberately give an extended period in view of the pandemic.

It was the second case in a matter of four weeks that the High Court came across wherein the accused were let go on account of a shoddy investigation by the police.

In the first case, a man who allegedly raped an eight-year-old girl was acquitted owing to insufficient evidence both by the trial court as well as the High Court which upheld the acquittal.

“The victim had earlier seen the said person in a carpentry shop near the temple [yet] no efforts were made to search him… no spot located or attempts were made to locate where the actual sexual assault took place… the Police has not made any inquiry with the younger brother of the victim who was alleged to be playing with the victim at the relevant time (when she was picked up taken to a lonely spot and allegedly raped)… no independent witnesses were called for panchanama on spot from where the victim was alleged to be picked up on a scooter… no mobile was ceased though it is claimed by the victim that the accused had shown her some obscene scenes,” the High Court noted.

In the second case, wherein a family was accused of illegally keeping the custody of a minor girl as a maid, harassing her and thereby driving her to suicide, the Court pulled up the Goa Police for failing to record the girl’s statement while she lay in a hospital bed battling for life having consumed rat poison in a bid to end her life.

“We found no explanation for failure to record the statement of the child [before] she, unfortunately, expired at the hospital [despite] the doctor having clearly opined that the child was fit to give a statement,” the High Court said.

“There is no explanation as to why Magistrates were not contacted for the record of such a vital statement. In any case, there ought to have been less of such casualness and more sensitivity in the matter of record of statement of a minor girl who was admitted in hospital for consumption of rat poison,” the High Court noted.

The High Court has now specifically asked the DGP “to take steps to see that the prosecutions against the perpetrators of crimes against minor children do not fail on account of shoddy and insensitive investigation”.

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