A mere 494 persons out of 8,773 people who were charge-sheeted for child marriage and POCSO cases in Assam have been convicted since 2017, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Monday.
Replying to a query by Congress MLA Abdur Rashid Mandal in Assam Assembly, Sarma said a total of 8,773 people have been chargesheeted under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) between 2017 and February 2023.
“A total of 494 persons were convicted and a total of 6,174 persons released on bail,” he added. This represents a conviction rate of just 5.63 per cent. Sarma informed the House that 4,049 persons were arrested under the PCMA and 8,908 people have been nabbed under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) across Assam from 2017 to February this year.
During the period, 134 boys under the age of 21 years, and 2,975 girls below 18-years of age married (the permissible age of marriage for males and females respectively), he added.
Reacting to the data and on the recent crackdown against child marriage accused, Mandal alleged that the Assam government is “terrorising” people using the two acts. On this, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pijush Hazarika said: “How is it terrorising people. You (Congress government) did not frame the rule. Because of vote bank politics, you did not take any initiative.” This led to a noisy scene in the House with both treasury and Opposition benches trading charges.
In a separate query by Independent MLA Akhil Gogoi, the Chief Minister stated that 4,111 incidents of child marriage took place in the State from April 2021 to February 2023. “A total of 4,670 cases have been registered naming 7,142 accused. Already 3,483 persons have been arrested, of which 1,182 are in jail, 2,253 have got bail and notices have been issued to 48 others,” he added.
Sarma also informed the legislators that the government has not taken any step to take responsibility for the children born out of child marriages, but said steps will be initiated if any child requires care and security.
During the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the Governor’s address, Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia said slapping of POCSO and rape cases on child marriage accused have created disturbances in the society with many old people getting arrested. AIUDF’s Aminul Islam climed the government hatched a conspiracy and accordingly slapped POCSO and rape charges on the people, who had married 7-8 years.
Congress MLA Bharat Chandra Narah refuted the government claim on Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and said child marriage is one of the reasons for high MMR in Assam, but not the only cause.
CPI(M)’s Manoranjan Talukdar said: “The government said the PCMA was not implemented. If so, who is responsible for that? The BJP was in power in Assam for over six years now.” He also said that no awareness against child marriage has been created in the state and Assam should follow Kerala model as there is hardly any case of child marriage in the Southern state.