'Don't make such arrests': A big order from TN DGP Sylendra Babu to the Tamil Nadu police officers!

Drawing more attention for prescribing an overhaul in the ongoing prosecution of cases booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, Tamil Nadu's Director-General of Police (DGP) Sylendra Babu has passed a big order to the Tamil Nadu police, directing the officers not to make arrests hastily in the cases that involve teenagers in a mutual romantic relationship. 

Sylendra Babu has issued a circular to all District Superintendents and Police Commissioners in which he instructed the investigating officers who are probing the POCSO cases to refrain from making hasty apprehensions- particularly in the cases where it was found that both the accused and the survivor had a mutual romantic relationship. 

The circular was issued on December 3 and it has instructed the police to first issue a notice under Section 41-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure to the individual concerned for inquiry and specify the reason for not recording the arrest of the accused in the case diary. In his circular, Sylendra Babu highlighted that arrest in such cases should be made only after acquiring the approval from the respective Superintendent of Police or the Deputy Commissioner in the region. 

Sylendra Babu said, "I have instructed officers to not show haste in effecting arrest of the accused in mutual romantic cases." The circular has also asked the senior officers to monitor the cases and take responsibility for crucial decisions. The DGP noted that the conduct of taking responsibility will help the officers who are into probing the POCSO cases to take right decisions without any pressure. 

The circular further said that it was pointed out that most of these cases end up in acquittal either on account of marriage between the survivor and the accused or on account of the survivor becoming hostile. The DGP's circular underlined that criminalizing youths will have a negative effect on their life and career. The circular has also referred to the recent case of a school boy from Cuddalore tying mangal sutra around the neck of his female friend. 

While the girl in this case was sent to a children's home, a criminal case was registered against the boy. According to Times Of India, several child right experts have welcomed the circular by quoting more acquittals than convictions and urged that an expert committee comprising of child rights activists, educationalists, legal experts, and psychologists should be formed to guide the child welfare committee, Juvenile Justice Board, and the police while handling such sensitive cases.

It is pertinent to note that Sylendra Babu's circular has come after the stake holders consultation meeting conducted by the Juvenile Justice Committee and POCSO Committee of the Madras High Court on the implementation of POCSO Act. The meeting discussed about the criminalization of males under POCSO for engaging in a relationship with a girl below 18 years of age and pointed out that 60% of the POCSO cases registered relate to mutual romantic relationships. 

During the meeting, the committee highlighted that when a 17-year-old tribal wife goes for a delivery, the hospital informs the police after which her husband is immediately arrested under the POCSO Act. The committee noted that if such trend continues, the tribal people will not go for delivery to hospitals. According to Times Of India, Jayanthi Rani, the former member of State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, welcomed the DGP's move and said, "We have been training police officers regularly, but we have not been completely successful."