Kerala govt to examine legality of arrest of a theatre owner, police accuse owner of alleged delay in reporting a child molestation

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday said the government would examine the legality of the case registered by police against the owner of a theatre in Malappuram, where a minor girl was molested by a businessman on 18 April.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The theatre owner Satheesh, who exposed the incident by handing over visuals to Childline, a helpline for support for child protection and child rights. The man was arrested on Monday for the alleged delay in informing police about the crime.

Referring to the criticism of the Congress-led UDF Opposition over the arrest of the theatre owner, Vijayan told the state Assembly that the Director General of Prosecution (DGP) was asked to examine and submit a report on whether the action of the investigating officer was "legally correct".

However, Opposition members staged a walkout in the House demanding immediate suspension of the officer, who arrested the theatre owner, as his action amounted to penalising a person who exposed the crime which otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

Police on Monday arrested Satheesh under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), for alleged delay in informing the authorities about the incident. He was later let off on bail.

Justifying the action, police had said that the Childline was told about the crime first instead of them.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, moving a submission, said the incident was yet another example of police high-handedness against those who point out their lapses and laxity.

Alleging 'high-level intervention' in the investigation of the theatre molestation case, he said police had insulted the theatre owner by calling him to the station at least 10 times.

The leader also urged Vijayan, who holds the Home portfolio, to withdraw the case registered against the theatre owner.

"The government and police are giving a wrong message to the public by registering a case against the theatre owner. It's a shame on the state," Chennithala said.

He also wanted the government to act above politics and suspend the officer responsible, pending inquiry.

In his reply, the chief minister said the government would take adequate action after necessary examinations in this regard. "The DGP has been entrusted with the task of submitting a report on whether the action of arresting the theatre owner was legally correct," he said.

Vijayan admitted that as per the preliminary information, the police officer didn't consult with his higher-ups before registering the case against the theatre owner.

As the chief minister did not show readiness to announce any immediate action against the 'erring' officer, opposition members raised slogans and trooped to the well of the House and later staged a walkout.

The molestation incident inside the theatre came to light after a Malayalam channel telecast visuals showing the accused, 60-year-old businessman, Moideenkutty, molesting the child as her mother sat beside the accused.

The incident had triggered widespread outrage in the state. Moideenkutty was arrested soon after the visuals were telecast. The child's mother was also arrested later for abetting the crime and not informing the police.

A case under POCSO Act was also registered against them. Though the theatre authorities handed over the visuals through Childline to the police on 28 April, no action was taken by the police until the visuals were aired.

In a related development, a sub-inspector, suspended for the delay in registering an FIR in the case, was arrested and left off on bail on Tuesday.


Updated Date: Jun 05, 2018 15:47 PM

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