The overall conviction rate in cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, across the State has been just around 18%, say data released by the Childline even as protests continue over the acquittal of the accused in the rape and death of two minor siblings at Attappallam, near Walayar.
The Childline report says that the trial of 1,255 cases under Section 5 (aggravated penetrative sexual assault), Section 7 (sexual assault), Section 9 (aggravated sexual assault), Section 11 (harassment), Section 13 (using children for pornography), and Section 15 (keeping in possession pornographic records involving children) of the POCSO Act have been completed in various courts between 2013 and 2018.
However, the accused in only 230 cases were convicted while those in the rest were acquitted. The conviction rate is just 18.32%. The highest number of cases, 282, was from Kozhikode and only 23 of them were convicted.
The lowest was in Thrissur where trial was completed in 23 cases and nine were convicted. The highest conviction rate too was in Thrissur district and the lowest in Alappuzha district.
This was besides the cases that do not reach the courts due to various reasons or end up in out-of-court settlements.
P. Suresh, Chairman of the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, told The Hindu that the false nature of complaints was one of the reasons for the low conviction rate.
“Even the Kerala High Court has condemned the way in which the Act is being misused amid family disputes. There have been cases in which the mother files a case against the father for sexually assaulting their daughter, just to make the divorce easier,” he said.
Another reason, he said, was due to the victims or witnesses turning hostile after a certain stage. “The police, prosecution, and the court become helpless in such cases,” Mr.Suresh said. This tendency was more in cases where the accused were close family members.
Mr.Suresh said Kerala topped the country in the number of POCSO cases being reported not because of an increased crime rate, but due to increased awareness about child rights among the people.
“However, there is still a lack of awareness regarding the nuances of the POCSO Act,” he said.
“POCSO Act is a very complicated law. Even minor offences seem serious when brought under its ambit. People create an uproar without understanding its nuances,” he added.