Saturday, Jun 14, 2003
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THE LEGAL provisions against those accused of kidnapping minor girls are stringent and designed to prove a deterrent. However, in elopement cases, it seems the accused is left at the receiving end due to the same provisions.
To be sure, once a minor girl makes a statement before the magistrate of her being kidnapped, the police have to register a case under Section 363 (punishment for kidnapping).
Further, the accused may also find himself charged with criminal assault. The premise being that the consent of a minor could not be used as an excuse. The age of the accused matters only in deciding whether he would be tried by the juvenile court or normal court.
And, perhaps rightly so. Minor girls, particularly those coming from lower economic strata, and living virtually on the road are highly gullible. "Their parents are generally away at work and the girls are left unattended. They then tend to cling on to anybody who shows even a little attention,'' says Rajat Mitra, Programme Director for Swanchetan Society for Mental Health. He adds that small things in life - a visit to a new place or buying a new set of clothes - could be enough for the girl to think that the person is in love with her.
Also, there is the risk of minor girls ending up in the vicious cycle of immoral trafficking or begging. In fact, traffickers often adopt such methods to lure minors into a trap. "They gain the confidence of the girl by their impeccable behaviour to such an extent that the girl would defend him till the last moment,'' Dr. Mitra explains. The person would then take the girl to an isolated place, like a village, where it becomes difficult for the girl to escape. After sometime, he is likely to strike a deal with some agents and sell the girl.
In cases of elopement though, complaints are lodged more as an afterthought. Also, there is no trend of girls involved in elopement cases ending up in the trafficking net. In any case, once a minor girl elopes with a boy a case is not immediately registered. This is not a laxity on part of the police. It is the parents of the girl who normally avoid contacting police or at least lodging a formal complaint. In quite a number of cases, the parents of both the girl as well as the boy are aware of their wards' whereabouts.
However, when the girl and the boy return, it becomes news in the locality and then the parents of the girl get a formal complaint lodged with the police. If only to show that their daughter was not in the wrong and thereby save their family honour. The boy then gets charged with kidnapping and subsequently, even criminal assault. Sometimes parents even show their daughters as being less than 18, though it may not be actually so.
Once a case is registered, it depends upon how the matter is handled after that. If the two families reach a compromise, the girl changes her statements at a later stage in front of the magistrate. Or else, the statement is given against the accused.
Police sources add that not registering a case in such a situation might result in the judiciary taking a strong objection to it. Worse, the police may be accused of dereliction of duty or "making money'' by allowing the accused to go scot-free.
As such, sections of kidnapping and criminal assault are stringent clauses in which a person can be imprisoned for a total of seven to 10 years. It should, therefore, be a point to ponder if these provisions could be used in such a subjective, or even callous, manner.
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