A day after blurred portions of a video of the sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl inside a movie theatre was published by a Malayalam news channel, police officials say they are contemplating legal action against the mother. Speaking to TNM, a police officer said that they will decide if and how to file a case against the mother based on a detailed viewing of the video.
The visuals caught on a night-vision surveillance camera at the movie theatre in Malappuram district showed a 60-year-old man, identified as Moideen Kutty Pattambi, sitting in a theatre and sexually abusing the child. As the child moves around in her seat helplessly, the mother watches the movie unperturbed. The man, flanked by the mother and the child on either side, indulges in sexual acts with both of them while the film was being screened.
On Sunday, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed under District Crime Records Bureau Deputy Superintendent of Police, Shaji, to probe the case. Shaji told TNM that while the man has been booked under IPC section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and under 6 and 7 of POCSO Act (sexual assault, aggravated penetrative sexual assault), no case has been filed against the woman yet. The police are however contemplating action against her.
Shaji said that the woman was the biological mother of the child and she had two more girl children. The man and the woman had been in a relationship and she had brought the child to the theatre so that the man could molest her.
The unpardonable delay by Kerala police
Though the incident happened on April 18, people working in the theatre handed over the footage to the District Childline officials on April 19, who in turn informed the police.
“We informed the police the very next day. We delayed it by a day to thoroughly check the visuals, considering the severity of the case. It’s a three-hour video, the theatre guys found it. We had checked the entire footage. He was abusing the mother and child at the same time, that too continuously from the beginning to the end. During the movie interval, he stops, goes out and then comes back to resumes the sexual assault. After informing the police, we approached them every day to follow up. We waited till Saturday as we thought that the police should be given time to trace him. Still they didn’t act,” Childline member Anwar told TNM.
Changaramkulam Sub-Inspector of Police K G Baby was suspended on Saturday night for failing to act promptly in the case.
Anwar from Childline added, “This is the first time that we gave video evidence of a child sexual abuse to the police. In other cases, we have only submitted statements of the child and others. In this case everything was crystal clear.”
Moideen is said to be a rich businessman who runs jewellery showrooms in the state as well as in Gulf countries. He is reportedly a frequent visitor to the Gulf. “His influence as a rich businessman might have prompted the police not to take case against him. He is living with his family in Thrithala,” a source said.
The POSCO Act has provisions to book those who abet, ignore or hide information regarding crimes of child sexual abuse. In this case the police can be made accused for not acting despite the visuals and other details provided by Childline.
Childline guards girl
The woman lives with her children in Palakkad- Malappuram border. She has three daughters and the girl who was taken to the theatre is the youngest one, according to sources. The child is now at a Nirbhaya home.
As per procedure, Child Welfare Committee has the authority to take custody of children who are unsafe in the environments they are living in. “We have initiated steps to shift the siblings to homes as mandated in such situations. As far as we understood, the children’s father does not live with them,” Child Welfare Council director Gopalakrishnan said.
“Now the police may turn hostile towards us for acting against them,” a Childline worker told TNM. Mathrubhumi also reports that there is a move to trap Childline alleging that the visuals had been tampered by them.
Childline is however happy with the theatre staff. The role of the theatre staffers is laudable, said Anwar. “When we asked them if they had any details of the accused, they did have details of the car in which the man had come to the theatre. This helped to trace the vehicle number and using that his address,” he said.
Women’s Commission chairperson MC Josephine visited the theatre on Sunday morning and appreciated the employees for their help.