Although the Supreme Court has instructed police station across the country to follow a set of guidelines while dealing with cases of missing children, HT found that most police stations in the city did not abide by them.
One such SC guideline was that police stations appoint a Juvenile Welfare Officer (JWO) to investigate cases of children in conflict with law and crimes against minors. However, this appointment is yet to be made in many police stations in the city.
Further, the SC’s May 2013 ruling also directed police stations to register a case of kidnapping when a missing child case is reported and that the JWO look into all such cases.
However, when HT visited the Oshiwara police station, an officer on the condition of anonymity said that just like in other criminal cases, a missing child complaint is also investigated by a duty officer, while records are maintained by a constable. The officer added that it was following the SC ruling, that FIRs were registered instead of the earlier practice of a missing person report.
“When a missing child complaint is filed, the on-duty officer registers a case of kidnapping and investigates it,” said the officer.
The situation was no different at Amboli police station.
When asked about the appointment of a JWO, Prabhakar Medhe, senior inspector, Oshiwara police station, said, “All missing cases are handled by an assistant sub-inspector.”
The court’s directive, however, specifies that the officer be specially trained to deal with such sensitive cases and that all the cases are registered under the Indian Penal Code and are investigated assuming the child is kidnapped, until proved missing.
“Only if the family suspects that the child is missing, do we register a case of kidnapping. Otherwise a missing complaint is filed and the procedure is followed,” said Medhe.