Pune: Activists and legal experts said the National Defence Academy (NDA) should have informed the local police immediately after three school girls complained of inappropriate behaviour by an Army jawan when a group of students visited the academy on December 24 last year.
NDA authorities said they have constituted a Court of Inquiry (CoI) headed by a Lt Col and two serving officers, including a woman officer, to probe the matter. NGO Childline Director Anuradha Sahasrabudhe told Sakal Times, “NDA authorities must carefully read the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which clearly states that whenever a person does any act with sexual intent which involves physical contact, it amounts to sexual assault. Any person who has apprehension that an offence of sexual abuse is likely to be committed or knows that the offence has been committed should provide information to the police, which should make immediate arrangements to give the child care and protection. Police should report the matter to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) within 24 hours of recording the complaint.”
Advocate Anjali Pawar of NGO Sakhi said, “POCSO Act has provisions for harsh punishment for members of the armed forces, police, etc. who indulge in such acts. Under section 21 of the act, a person who has knowledge of the incident but does not inform police is liable for punishment with imprisonment up to one year imprisonment and a fine. The NDA authorities must immediately inform police or else action should be taken against the concerned head of the institution.”
Om Prakash, Director of Delhi-based Kailash Satyarthi Children Foundation, said, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s NDA or the Prime Minister’s Office. If someone is aware of the abuse or harassment of children, it’s mandatory to report the matter to CWC and the police as per the rules of POCSO Act. It’s totally unacceptable if NDA is conducting an inquiry on its own without informing the police authorities.”
However, Pune city police officials have also not taken action of media reports of the incident. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 1) Dr Basavraj Teli, under whose jurisdiction NDA is located, told Sakal Times, “We are yet to receive a complaint about the incident from the victims.”
An officer from NDA said, “Our legal team gave an opinion that the incident does not amount to sexual assault, hence we did not report the matter to the police. There is zero tolerance for such acts in the armed forces. We are conducting an enquiry and stringent action will be taken against the culprit.”
Action will be based on findings of CoI: NDA
“Three girl students from Army Public School who were on a guided tour to NDA reported an incident of inappropriate behavior to the authorities of NDA on Dec 24, wherein a Personnel Below Officer rank (PBOR) was alleged to have brushed his hand while directing these girls to their seats during a screening at the auditorium. On receipt of the complaint, NDA authorities took prompt action, wherein the officer-in-charge of the auditorium, along with his wife and two serving women officers, intervened and carried out preliminary investigation in presence of the school teachers. Thereafter, parents of these girls and the principal of the school were contacted regarding pursuing the case and lodging of an FIR. They did not want to lodge an FIR and they were assured of a fair inquiry.
The initial investigation report by NDA police was sent to higher authorities within 24 hrs and a Court of Inquiry was constituted immediately. The members of the Court of Inquiry visited the school and recorded statements of witnesses in presence of the accused PBOR, and parents as well as the principal. The parents of these girls have shown reluctance in prolonging the inquiry. Their statements have been recorded and further action will be based on the findings of the Court of Inquiry,” a statement from the NDA reads.