After months of ordeal, the 14-year-old Tripura girl, who was trafficked and sold to a man in Rajasthan, met her family at Uttar Ratacherra in the Unakoti district of northern Tripura on Wednesday evening.
The Tripura High Court had taken suo motu cognizance of an IANS report on the sale of the poverty-stricken minor into marriage in Rajasthan. The authorities in Jaipur handed her over to a four-member Tripura officials' team on Tuesday.
Unakoti District Superintendent of Police (DSP) Ratiranjan Debnath said the girl had returned with officials to Kailashahar (Unakoti district headquarters) on Wednesday evening. Leter she was taken to meet her family, he added.
"As per the Covid-19 protocol, she will remain in 14-day institutional quarantine in Kailashahar," the DSP told IANS by phone.
She had tested coronavirus positive in Rajasthan, but recovered. She had the medical certificate issued in Rajasthan, he added.
Shailendra Pandya, the Rajasthan State Commission of Protection of Child Rights' (RSCPCR) member, who had taken up the case with the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), said, "I am happy she has been reunited with her family after the horrible time."
"During the legal battle in Jaipur, she was infected with Covid-19. But she has won on both fronts," Pandya told IANS over phone from Jaipur.
After IANS highlighted on June 16 the teenager's sufferings, then sheltered at the Swadhara Women Home at Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan, the Tripura High Court took suo motu cognizance of the report and issued notices to six authorities, including the Tripura government, the Tripura State Human Rights Commission, the Unakoti District Magistrate and the NCPCR.
Issuing notices, a Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice Subhashish Talapatra, observed, "We can only imagine the current mental state of the girl. We would request all respondents to mull and suggest appropriate ways to ensure the safety and security of the minor girl.
"Suggestions may be made on the next date of hearing as to how the girl can be brought back to Tripura at the earliest, and as and when she is brought back how to ensure her safety and well-being."
The case came to light when the girl fled her "husband's" house. On May 2, the man filed a missing complaint at the Mandawa police station, claiming that his "wife" had gone missing.
The police traced her on May 4. But the girl, whose father died in Tripura five months ago, refused to go with the person and sought protection. Then the Jhunjhunu Sub-Divisional Magistrate ordered her lodging at the shelter home.
The NCPCR had also asked the Unakoti DSP to submit a report on the teenager. While the Jhunjhunu SDM asked the Mandawa police to re-investigate the case, the RSCPCR asked the Child Welfare Committee to get an FIR registered against the "husband" under the Juvenile Justice Act, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and anti-trafficking law.
The girl in her statement to the police as well as the local court said she was sold in Jhunjhunu for Rs 1.5 lakh and was kept in a locked home for some months, Pandya said.
"Since she was 10-week pregnant, a counsellor was appointed to counsel her about it. With her consent, it was aborted earlier this month," Pandya said.
The Rajasthan Police have arrested two persons in Jhunjhunu in connection with the case. Under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences), the girl was entitled to financial compensation up to Rs 5 lakh, Pandya said.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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