The commission's chairman Priyank Kanoongo said he recorded the victim's statement and instructed the police to submit a detailed report.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has taken cognizance of the incident in Tamil Nadu where a 16-year-old POCSO case victim was allegedly handcuffed by the Nilgiris police.
The commission is also learnt to have sought a report about the incident from the state government.
After the incident came to light, NCPCR Chairman Priyank Kanoongo visited Kotagiri on Tuesday, 28 November, and conducted an inquiry with the victim and the police.
According to sources South First reached out to, Kanoongo visited the victim and talked to her at the Taluk office in Kotagiri. The sources said the girl narrated the incident before the commission, and it was all recorded.
Further, the commission inquired with Police Inspector Saraswathi, who is the Station House Officer (SHO) of the local All Women Police Station. The team also met with the deputy superintendent of police.
According to sources, the police submitted a short video clip of CCTV footage to the commission claiming that the victim was not handcuffed.
They also alleged that the advocates who were involved in the case were acting due to vested interests.
Objecting to the claim, advocate Malini Prabhakaran, who has been authorised by the local Child Welfare Committee, said that they were involved in the case only to protect the dignity of the minor girl and to get her justice.
Speaking to reporters after the inquiry, Kanoongo said that he recorded the statement of the girl about the incident and spoke to the police officers, instructing them to submit a detailed report.
The commission would take necessary action, he assured the reporters.
Meanwhile, Malini Prabhakaran told South First that the police were trying to cover up the incident by blaming the advocates. She added that the police were not even ready to arrest the person who allegedly abused the minor girl.
“When the police accuse women lawyers in this manner, think of the situation of that victim and her mother,” said Prabhakaran.
“We don’t want to stoop to the level of the police officers. We took up the case legally because the victim’s mother approached us and because the lethargic attitude of the police in the case shocked us,” she added.
“If the police say that the incident is cooked up, let them prove it. They have submitted a short, edited CCTV clip. Let them submit the entire five-hour CCTV footage,” said the lawyer.
“We have nothing against the police. We are only legally fighting for the girl. If the police say that it is a cooked-up and manipulated story, let them take action against the victim and us. What is stopping them?” she asked.
Meanwhile, human rights NGO People’s Watch has written to the chief justice of the Madras High Court and the state Human Rights Commission (HRC) to initiate suo motu proceedings in the incident.
The NGO’s Executive Director Henry Tiphagne, quoting the South First article published on 22 November in his letter, stated that the manner and mode in which the victim was treated by the police was completely contrary to the 2013 model guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act issued by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development.
“The inhumane police action of handcuffing the victim amounts to a violation of the right to be treated with dignity and compassion, the right to effective assistance, the right to be protected from hardship during the justice process, and the right to safety of the victim,” he said.
He appealed to the state HRC to exercise Section 12 (a) of the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act of 2019 to take suo motu cognizance of this incident and initiate an independent inquiry through its investigation wing.
He also wrote to the Madras High Court Chief Justice Sanjay Vijaykumar Gangapurwala to take up this case suo motu and put a stop to such practices by the police.
Robert, a 22-year-old man residing at Achanakal, allegedly sexually exploited the minor girl promising marriage.
Her family, after learning about the incident, reported the matter to the local All Women Police Station in August. However, despite several reminders, the police allegedly did not register an FIR until 2 November.
After the FIR, the minor was lodged at the Annai Sathya Home — a government-run facility. She was also subsequently taken for a medical test at the Government Hospital Ooty.
On 7 November, a woman police constable, identified only as Jamuna, took the girl from the home to the court to record her statement under Section 164 of the CrPC.
However, it was alleged that while taking the minor on a public transport bus, the policewoman told the conductor that the girl was a warrant prisoner and refused to purchase a ticket for her.
On reaching the Kothagiri bus stand, the woman constable allegedly handcuffed the girl, saying that she would otherwise flee. The cuffs were removed apparently only at the court’s entrance.
After the girl was deposed before the magistrate, she was reportedly handcuffed on the way back to the bus stand as well.
A group of four women advocates — Malini Prabhakaran, Kavitha Arunkumar, Aruna Mosin Sait, and Subashini — took up the issue with child rights organisations and also issued notice to the police on the incident. The Nilgiris district police promptly denied the incident.