Three girl students of a primary and middle school run by the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) in Chennai have allegedly been sexually assaulted by an unknown man multiple times. The sexual assault allegedly happened outside the school’s premises over the last two years. According to a police source, the girls, aged eight, 10, and 12, were reportedly escorted to the unknown man by a nine-year-old boy who also attends the same primary school. Although the Thiruvanmiyur police have been investigating the complaint since January 23, they have not registered a First Information Report (FIR) as of January 31.
Upon request of anonymity, a source close to the children told TNM, “The survivors didn’t speak about the assault since the assaulter had threatened to kill them and their family members. A fourth girl was also escorted by the nine-year-old boy recently to the assaulter along with the other girls, but she escaped and informed her parents. The parents then confronted the other children and that is when the girls hesitantly opened up about the assault.”
TNM also spoke to one of the parents who confirmed that one among them had approached the police on January 23 and given a complaint in writing but was afraid to sign it.
After one of the parents informed the police on January 23, the nine-year-old boy and his mother were summoned by the Thiruvanmiyur police and have since been interrogated.
Devaneyan, a child activist who visited the police station on January 30, confirmed that the minor boy was being held in the police station and told TNM that the child was physically assaulted by the police. “The boy should have ideally been presented before the Juvenile Justice Board. They should not have detained him in the station and harassed him. Action should be initiated against the police personnel for violating rules concerning child rights,” Devaneyan said.
Meanwhile, Thiruvanmiyur police station officials continue to maintain that an FIR is yet to be registered since the parents and the school have not filed a written complaint. A top police officer meanwhile told TNM that Child Welfare Committee officials have intervened and the police were coordinating with them to register an FIR. The police also denied allegations of having physically assaulted the minor boy.
However, Sharanya Ari, GCC’s Deputy Commissioner (Education), told TNM that the school had informed the police. “The school’s staff have spoken to the affected kids and informed both the Childline and the police.” Despite the school informing the police, no FIR has been filed yet.
The police’s action of not filing an FIR is an offence as Section 19 of the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act calls for mandatory reporting. Section 19 says that if a person who has information on any abuse fails to report it, they may face imprisonment for up to six months or fine or both. The police can also file a report or FIR without any involvement of the Child Welfare Committee.
“The police have powers to take suo motu action in such cases. They should have immediately filed an FIR and taken the minors for a medical examination,” Devaneyan remarked. “This is the second time that the Thiruvanmiyur police have handled a case like this negligently,” he added, referring to the case of the Dalit girl who was allegedly physically and sexually assaulted by DMK MLA I Karunanidhi’s son and daughter-in-law in Chennai.