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Law demands stripping HDR of home portfolio

SHILLONG: If legal interpretations of POCSO Act are to be believed, Cabinet Minister HDR Lyngdoh will have no other option but to relinquish the portfolio of Home due to the failure on the part of the owner of the Marvelene’s Inn at Rilbong to report the crime to the police, among other lapses as per the Act.
The Congress has supported the Home Minister while legal experts feel that there is enough scope as per law for his removal from the portfolio of Home.
The owner of the guest house is the son of the Home Minister and it is managed by the family.
A legal expert said that Section 21 of the POCSO Act mentions punishment for failure to report or record a case.
The clause (2) of Section 21 states, “Any person, being in-charge of any company or an institution (by whatever name called) who fails to report the commission of an offence under sub-section (1) of Section 19 in respect of a subordinate under his control, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with fine.”
The son of HDR Lyngdoh who runs the guest house had not apprised the police of the alleged immoral activities of the guest house even after the incident of sexual exploitation concerning the minor victim was reported in December last year.
Police are yet to interrogate the family of Lyngdoh even though the pressure groups, TUR and CSWO, filed an FIR at Laban police station quoting the relevant provisions of POCSO Act almost a month ago (January 8).
The FIR had sought action against the proprietor/owner(s)/management of Marvelene’s Inn, Rilbong, under POCSO Section 21 (1), which holds liable persons for failure to report the commission of an offence or apprehension that an act is likely to be committed under POCSO.
The FIR had also cited Section 370 of the IPC as amended by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, which holds liable persons who for the purpose of exploitation, harbours and receives a person or persons.
In fact, the 14-year-old girl was sexually exploited five times at Marvelene’s Inn – on two occasions by the accused Madan Bahadur Thapa and thrice by persons identified as Sanjit Das, Nibesh Debnath and Sarnab Das whom the girl addresses as Mama (uncle). All four persons are in custody.
Hence, logically the minor was “received” and “harboured” five times at Marvelene’s Inn where she was sexually assaulted and raped, the legal expert added.
Moreover, the guest house run by his son was used for abetting the sexual exploitation of the 14-year-old girl.    Section 17 of the POCSO Act speaks about the punishment for abetment. “Whoever abets any offence under this Act, if the act abetted is committed in consequence of the abetment, shall be punished with punishment provided for that offence,” states the Act.
A senior advocate dealing with the criminal matter said in the POCSO case, the accused have to prove their innocence in the court limiting the role of the victim.
Earlier, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma and MPCC president D.D Lapang had said law will take its own course and a person is innocent until proven guilty, without realising that under the POCSO Act, the burden of proof is reversed and it is on the accused and not on the prosecution to establish the guilt, the lawyer added.

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