The Neelankarai All Women Police Station (AWPS) in Chennai filed a First Information Report (FIR) under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on Thursday, February 1, against unknown person(s) for alleged sexual assault against three minor girls. The FIR was filed hours after TNM reported on the alleged assault and the police’s failure to file an FIR. The Chennai Police, in a press statement, also said that they have formed three special teams to nab the unknown assaulter. Although the Thiruvanmiyur police had been investigating the alleged assault since January 23, an FIR had not been filed until Thursday. It is to be noted that the Neelankarai AWPS comes under Thiruvanmiyur station’s jurisdiction.
In its statement, the Chennai police said that an unknown person had sexually assaulted the minor girls on the terrace of an apartment, with the help of a nine-year-old boy who would escort them there under the pretext of giving them chocolates.
The police’s failure to promptly file an FIR is an offence under section 19 of the POCSO Act, which 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.
According to a police source, the girls, aged seven, 10, and 12, were reportedly escorted to the unknown man repeatedly for a span of two years by a nine-year-old boy who also attends the same primary school. The police have been questioning the nine-year-old boy since January 23.
The survivors hadn’t spoken of the assault as the assaulter had allegedly threatened to kill them and their families. However, recently, when a fourth girl was escorted to the assaulter along with the three survivors, she escaped and informed her parents. When the parents spoke to the three survivors, they opened up about the repeated assaults, a source close to the children said.
Child rights activist Devaneyan, who visited the police station on January 30, alleged that the nine-year-old boy had been physically assaulted by the police in the name of an inquiry. “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.
The FIR has now been registered under section 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing a woman) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 5(l) (repeated penetrative sexual assault on a child), 5(m) (penetrative sexual assault on a child below 12 years) and section 6(1) (punishment for aggravated sexual assault) of the POCSO Act.