The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights today issued notice to singer Papon asking for explanation after Supreme Court advocate Runa Bhuyan filed a complaint with the child rights body Thursday alleging the singer has committed sexual assault on a minor. The lawyer learnt about the alleged crime from a video going viral on social media.
“We are issuing (notice) immediately. We have seen the CD,” Stuti Kacker, Chairperson, NCPCR told YKA. A member has also been designated for conducting an enquiry, she said.
The Facebook live video shows participants of the reality show Voice India Kids 2018 celebrating with the singer, who is a jury member in the show, and apparently some members of the crew. Towards the end of the video, the singer applies colour on a minor and then kisses her before asking the recording to be stopped. The singer and the child’s father have denied that the act was sexual.
“Prima facie it appears to be a violation of Section 7 of the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offence) Act,” Priyank Kanoongo, Member NCPCR, who is conducting enquiry into the alleged crime told YKA. The section outlaws physical contact made with a child with sexual intent. The child rights body has issued notice to the singer and &TV, which airs the reality show, seeking explanation on the incident, and has asked for a report from Maharashtra Police, Kanoongo told YKA.
“Surprisingly, though there are number of minor girls present inside the van, not a single female member of the crew is seen to be present inside the Van (sic),” Bhuyan points out in her complaint, citing the video, which she enclosed with her complaint in a CD.
“On seeing the video, I am seriously concerned regarding the safety and security of minor girls participating in reality shows across India,” she added.
— ANI (@ANI) February 23, 2018
Saying that she believes the singer has committed sexual assault, she asked NCPCR to conduct an enquiry under Section 7 and 8 of the POCSO Act. The lawyer has also asked for guidelines to “protect children from such untoward incident/sexual assault in reality shows across India”.
The singer and the contestant’s father have however said in a statement that the act was “not intentional”. “It was just a moment of affection that is being portrayed otherwise,” the father of the child said, according to reports.
Arguing that he is an “extremely affectionate and expressive person”, Papon said in a statement that showing “affection for an 11 year old child” who he had been mentoring “is not an alien concept” for him. “However this is not to say that I haven’t made a mistake. I might have done it spontaneously but in today’s environment, to touch a girl child, however innocent your thoughts are, is not advisable,” the statement read.
Singer #Papon issues statement over allegedly 'inappropriately kissing a minor girl', says 'my humble request to everyone, when you do come across this matter is to just pause & think about how much harm this does to the people involved' pic.twitter.com/vnuZsOcwUF
— ANI (@ANI) February 23, 2018
In another statement, the channel &TV said it is “extending complete support to all parties who are impacted” by the incident. “We as a channel have always been focused on the safety, security and well-being of the contestants participating in our shows. We have always adhered to the NCPCR guidelines and our production house, Essel Vision Productions Limited has taken all precautionary measures required under NCPCR and other laws,” the statement read.
Note: The story has been updated to include details of the notices issued and the statements by &TV, the singer, and the child’s father.