The lawyers working on the cases say under the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act or POCSO, the police must keep the parents informed at every stage of investigation and trial and also supply them with a copy of the chargesheet. "Neither of these two is happening," said Sridevi Panikkar, who is representing the children.
Sridevi is part of iProbono's panel of lawyers. iProbono provides access to justice for marginalised and disadvantaged litigants and has provided legal assistance to children who've suffered sexual abuse, to street vendors, and to homeless communities.The mother of a 14-year-old says the accused received a copy of the chargesheet four months before she got the same document, that too after appeals through her counsel. By then, seven hearings had taken place, which they had missed.
"I found out the man was out on bail when his family came and offered us money to drop the case. He lives next door and now he makes fun of us. We were not informed about the bail by the court, the police or anybody else," she said.
Her daughter, who is speech and hearing impaired, was taken home by the man and photographed. "I don't want push her to tell me what happened because once she slit her wrist," her mother said. The girl, who had been raped multiple times, gave birth to a baby, which was given up for adoption.
"We want justice. We are fighting so this does not happen to any other child. My child is not the same anymore. They even tried to get him thrown out of school," said the mother of a 10-year-old boy. The family did not receive any updates from the police and found out that the accused got bail only when he showed up in the neighbourhood.
"There are many more such cases... More than 300 such cases under POCSO are being supported by Haq," said Sana Siddiqui of the non-profit Haq, which is working to help the families.
Such families mostly come from under-privileged classes and because of the stigma attached to child sex abuse, they do not usually come forward. The non-profit has brought together these six mothers to give much more weight to their appeal.
The High Court has issued a notice to the government, seeking response on the issue. The next hearing is on October 11.