By Maya Palit
This April, the Samajwadi Party leader and former UP Minister Gayatri Prajapati was granted bail despite being embroiled in a POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) rape case.
Prajapati and two others were accused in February of gangraping a 35-year-old woman from Chitrakoot for a prolonged period of time, and molesting her daughter. In the meantime, an alert was sent out to airports, warning them that Prajapati might just try to leave the country.
But then, bizarrely, Prajapati found an easier way around it because on April 25th, the POCSO special court judge OP Mishra gave Prajapati bail. A departmental probe was then conducted against Mishra, who was suspended, and the bail order was stayed.
The Allahabad High Court has now unearthed the circumstances under which this bail was granted, and dodgy would be a massive understatement. Mishra and the District Judge Rajendra Singh had been bribed with Rs 5 crore, while another five crore was shared between three lawyers who acted as middle men. According to reports, Mishra replaced another judge, Laxmi Kant Rathaur (who’d been assigned POCSO jurisdiction since July 2016) on April 7th as the POCSO judge despite having three weeks to go before retirement. A week later, Prajapati applied for bail.
Last year, an extensive study of POCSO judgements suggested various reasons for the low conviction rates under the Act, which included the victim and perpetrator knowing each other. It also examined the implementation of the act and whether courts were child-friendly enough. Just earlier this month, the subject of POCSO cases being mishandled was brought up again after reports surfaced about how guardians of minors who have been sexually assaulted aren’t always kept up to speed when the perpetrator gets bail, despite a law making this mandatory. And with the new information about Prajapati’s murky bail deal, it looks like the execution of POCSO is about to be scrutinised all over again.