Wednesday, April 24, 2024

EKH had most POCSO cases in 2023: Report


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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, Feb 29: Most POCSO cases in the state last year were recorded from East Khasi Hills, a preliminary report of the Meghalaya State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has revealed.
The district topped with 709 cases, which was 28% of all POCSO cases in 2023.
South Garo Hills recorded 64 cases, the least at 2%, the data said.
According to the commission, East Khasi Hills also had the most pending POCSO cases – 566 – pending in the POCSO court. South East Garo Hills had 36 pending cases, the least in the state.
The total number of cases registered in the POCSO courts from their inception to December 2023 was 2,566, out of which 1,984 are pending across the districts. The disposal rate of cases in the state is 22.68%.
The first case registered under the POCSO Act was on June 4, 2013, at the East Khasi Hills POCSO court. The POCSO courts in the other districts were established subsequently.
Of the 12 districts in the state, 11 have POCSO courts with designated judges. The district yet to have one is the newly established Eastern West Khasi Hills.
“…the total number of cases instituted has increased over the years and this may be due to various factors for which more proper research is suggested. However, it may be noted that during the pandemic years, the number of cases instituted was highest at 365 in 2020 and 378 in 2021,” the report said.
It said that the disposal of cases does not only include convictions and acquittals, but also other factors such as deaths of the accused, absconders, and frequent transfers of cases from one district to another due to the establishment of new districts and district POCSO courts.
The Ri-Bhoi district has the highest number of convictions in POCSO cases with 50 followed by West Khasi Hills with 31, and East Khasi Hills with 30.
There are no convictions in South Garo Hills partly because no special public prosecutor has been appointed for South Garo Hills to try the cases. As a result, all cases in the district are pending before the court.
South West Garo Hills, too, has had no conviction since 2017 when the POCSO court was established in the district.
“When it comes to convictions of cases, we can also see them on an annual basis and note that the number of convictions has been steadily increasing yearly and the highest number of convictions on an annual basis was in 2022 with 60 convictions followed closely with 31 convictions in 2023,” the report stated.
The preliminary report observed that the POCSO court of East Khasi Hills recorded 48 acquittals, the highest in 2023. North Garo Hills and South West Garo Hills recorded the lowest acquittals at three each.
The report further noted that the highest number of pending cases was in 2021 followed closely by 2022.
Meanwhile, Social Welfare Minister Paul Lyngdoh on Thursday expressed concern that some districts in the state have zero conviction rate in cases pertaining to the POCSO Act, 2012.
He felt something was wrong somewhere and it should be corrected.
“I am sure with the active support of civil society, we should be able to immediately address the problem. Now that this Act is available in Khasi, we would like to make sure it reaches the doorsteps of all villagers. Nobody can plead ignorance as an escape route from the clutches of the law,” the Minister said addressing a gathering after the release of Ki Kyndon Aiñ, the Khasi translation of the POCSO Act.
He said the lawmakers should come together to fight crimes relating to sexual offences against children.
Lyngdoh said it is a landmark day because for the first time after the introduction of Khasi alphabet way back in 1841, Meghalaya got the POCSO Act in the Khasi language.
“Let those candles we lit should not only be symbolic but let those be lit in the heart of each one of us – lawmakers to translators to parents to faith leaders – so that we take upon ourselves that it is our responsibility to ensure the safety and security all children across Meghalaya,” Lyngdoh said.
Law Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh said there is a bigger challenge ahead and a mere simplification of POCSO Act will not suffice to protect those who are too afraid to speak out about attacks on their lives.
She said it is imperative that the Social Welfare department, Law department and Health and Family Welfare department collectively address and overcome the obstacles hindering the realization of women’s rights within the community.
“We have to get together and break all the hurdles to ensure that anyone who comes to the festival after an abuse on her life gets the right and timely attention,” the Law Minister said.
She said there are myths circulating about the rights of rape victims and the matter needs to be deliberated upon. She said young girls and women, who are victims of rape within the community, often struggle to access legal aid.
She said the Law department should ensure that the Public Prosecutors and Assistant Public Prosecutors in the districts are aware of their responsibility in protecting women in the community.
Registrar of National Law University of Meghalaya Kerpa Meida Lyngdoh Nongbri and chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Iamonlang Mawthoh Syiem also spoke on the occasion.
During the programme, the Meghalaya State Commission for Protection of Child Rights released a calendar and a preliminary report on the POCSO cases in the courts of the state.


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