A child rape case of 2009 has been bandied around for the last 14 years in a court under Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) without resolution.
The child was 7 years of age when she was sexually assaulted by an adult male following which her mother had filed an FIR. But 14 years later, and now at 22 years, she is still being dragged through that awful trauma as she has to watch her mother having to run on summons of the court to bear witness again of her suffering for anumpteenth time.
The case pertains to an FIR filed in the Sohra Police Station in 2009. The case GR.NO. 40/09 U/s 376(I) IPC is being heard in one of the KHADC courts. The mother who was the complainant was issued a summon to witness under ‘Section 61 and 244 of the Code of Criminal Procedure’ last month to appear before it in April.
The summons in the routine Form 3 reads, “…. It appears to me that you are likely to give material evidence for prosecution. You are hereby summoned to appear before this court on…… to testify that you know concerning the matter of the said complainant and not to depart therefrom without leave the Court and your are hereby warned that if you shall without just excuse neglect or refuse to appear on the said date a Warrant will be issued to compel your attendance.”
This of course is the routine language of court summons, but for this mother to receive this in the 14th years of her ordeal is like rubbing salt on a wound. She cannot be blamed if she is losing faith in the power of the judiciary to deliver justice to her daughter.
Lawyers spoken to said that the KHADC courts which are constituted under the Sixth Schedule is where any disputes between a tribal and a tribal is to be heard. Therefore, even such cases as rape, whether that is of a minor even, went to the District Council Courts as per previous judicial rulings.
It may be mentioned that in 2013 the then chairperson of the State Women’s Commission Theilin Phanbuh had been shocked that there were 163 cases of rape pending before the KHADC courts and had asked that these be forthwith be transferred to the Fast Track Courts constituted at that time to handle the rising number of violence against women cases. At that time out of these 163 cases 99 were minor rape cases in which 47 were below 10 years, the youngest being a child of 17 and the rest were aged between 11 to 17 years.
The question arises whether the Sohra case pending before the District Council case is an aberration or is it part of a whole group of cases long pending cases of violence against women and girls? It is for the Child Rights protectors and particularly the Commission for the Protection of Child Rights to dig out more from the opaque halls of the KHADC where scrutiny from outside is mostly rebuffed as interference into the ‘tribal customs’. But it does behove the state authorities to find out the fate of all these cases that the previous chairperson had been worried about because of this pending 14 year old 376 IPC Sohra case.
The Sohra case should have by rights gone under the POCSO Act but the case happened in 2009, three years before the Act came into effect in 2012.
When consulted about this case, lawyers and child rights experts were appalled by it. But as one of them said, the case could not have been brought under the POCSO as the Act does not say anything about it having the power of retrospective effect on cases prior to it becoming a law. This is a major lacunae in the POCSO law which puts genuine cases like the Sohra child rape case beyond its jurisdiction.
According to sources close to the family, in 2009 in the aftermath of the sexual assault the child had been hospitalized and was under treatment for more than two months. The years were traumatic and she had been under medical treatment for a long time.
It is learnt that she still needs medication as she still suffers from what medical parlance would recognize as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The family being agriculturists have a hard time making ends meet. They have not been given any travel assistance for their past court visits or the medical expenses for the child over the years. Neither did the child, now a woman of 22 get any help or support from the Child Welfare Committee or the Child Protection facilities of the state.
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