An inordinate delay by the SC allowed Gireesh, a clinical psychologist, to continue to practice a profession where vulnerable clients have a hierarchical relationship with him.

While court slept for a year Kerala psychologist accused of child sex abuse ran a clinic
news Child Sexual Abuse Friday, February 01, 2019 - 19:09

Indian judiciary is overburdened, we all know this. But what justifies the Supreme Court delaying an appeal by the police to deny bail to a person accused of sexually assaulting a child – not for days or weeks, but for over a year?

A child psychologist in Kerala was arrested on Tuesday for sexually harassing a minor back in 2015 – but this is not the first case against him. In 2017, an FIR was registered against K Gireesh for sexually assaulting another minor, but the man gave a slip to the police and got a pre-arrest bail from the Supreme Court. And while the Supreme Court has hit the snooze button on the police’s appeal against this order for around 427 days, the man has been practicing in Kerala, in a profession where vulnerable clients have a hierarchical relationship with him.

How Gireesh was arrested

K Gireesh is a clinical psychologist who runs a private clinic out of his residence in Thiruvananthapuram. He’s also an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Health Department of Thiruvananthapuram, once a face on TV – he has co-anchored a medical show on a popular Malayalam channel. The Fort police in Thiruvananthapuram arrested him on Tuesday after it came to light that he had sexually assaulted a minor boy in 2015, in Class 7 then, during a counselling session.

The victim had various learning difficulties because of which his parents had taken him to Gireesh’s clinic in 2015, for counselling sessions. The sessions used to take place once or twice every month in his clinic, during which the victim was allegedly sexually assaulted by Gireesh.

This had an adverse impact on the child’s mental health, making his parents take him to other psychologists, a police official investigating the case told TNM. “Recently, the victim was taken to a psychologist in the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, who had advised that the boy be admitted to the hospital,” said the police official.

The clinic of Gireesh.

During one of the counselling sessions, the boy opened up to the counsellor about how Gireesh had sexually abused him. The counsellor then immediately notified the Fort Police Station. On receiving the complaint, the police recorded the statement of the boy after which Gireesh was arrested from his residence on the same day.

Gireesh has been arrested under sections 7 (sexual assault), 9(e) (aggravated sexual assault committed by management staff of a government or private hospital in that hospital), 9(l) (repeated sexual assault), 10 (punishment for aggravated sexual assault), 11(iii) (sexual harassment by showing an object or media to a child for pornographic purposes) and 12 (punishment for sexual harassment of a child) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

While this incident happened in 2015 and has only come to light now, the man has had access to vulnerable people – especially children – for at least one and a half years now simply because of an inordinate delay by the Supreme Court.

The cases in 2017

In January 2017, Gireesh was accused of sexual harassment by a 23-year-old woman, whom he was counselling, a police official told TNM. “A case was registered against him, but we were not able to collect enough evidence in order to arrest him.” The case was however quashed by the High Court after a few weeks, as the woman, reportedly under pressure from her family and Gireesh, told the court that she did not wish to pursue the case.

But a few months later, the police received another complaint against Gireesh – this time regarding the sexual assault of a 13-year-old boy. In August 2017, the parents of a minor went to the Fort Police station, after the boy told the parents that Gireesh had sexually abused him during a consultation. The boy, who had learning difficulties, was traumatised after Gireesh touched his private parts and repeatedly kissed him.

Before the police could arrest him however, Gireesh went absconding and went to the Kerala High Court seeking an anticipatory bail. His lawyers argued that the since Gireesh was a clinical psychologist, him touching the boy could not be counted as an offence under Prevention of Children of Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The High Court rejected this argument and refused to give him anticipatory bail.

Gireesh, who was still absconding, then approached the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court snoozing?

On December, 1, 2017, a bench consisting of Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Deepak Gupta, granted Gireesh pre-arrest bail. Despite the Kerala counsel telling the court that he was a repeat offender, the judges granted the bail and asked Gireesh to appear before the Fort Police for investigation.

The Kerala government opposed the bail and filed an application in the Supreme Court soon after. To ensure that Gireesh does not get bail, the government even engaged senior counsel V Giri, a former Kerala High Court judge, as counsel for the case. But until today – 427 days after Gireesh was given pre-arrest bail – the case has not been taken up by the Supreme Court.

This has allowed Gireesh to come back to his house and resume his practice. TNM visited Thanal, Gireesh’s two floor residence near Killipalam in Thiruvananthapuram; on the ground floor of this building is De Praxis, the private clinic that he runs. According to Fort Station police officials, the clinic is visited by a many clients.

The police official told TNM that with the court delaying on the case, there was not much the police could do. “We could not conduct the investigation as we wanted to do a custodial interrogation. We waited for the court to give an order,” the official said.

But now that a third case was filed against him, “we could finally arrest him,” the official said.

“In the present case, we were notified directly by the counsellor from the medical college and we were able to take the statement of the victim immediately and arrest him. And all of this happened without Gireesh’s knowledge, unlike the previous case where he knew what was happening which gave him enough time to abscond and approach the courts.”

With inputs from Sanyukta Dharmadhikari

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