'We have no idea what is happening in reality shows when children participate. These reality shows are harming kids' psyche and their future, too. If they want to continue, then there has to be proper guidelines laid down by the government for them to follow,' complainant Runa Bhuyan said.
Bollywood singer Papon is in trouble after a video of him ‘inappropriately kissing’ a teenaged contestant of a reality show surfaced on social media.
In a suo motu action, Supreme Court lawyer Runa Bhuyan has lodged a complaint against Papon under POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
In her complaint Bhuyan has stated, ‘The video was taken in a van where the kids participating in reality show Voice of India Kids-2018 are involved in some fun activities with the crew members of the show along with singer Angaraag Papon Mahanta who is also a jury member of the show.
‘Surprisingly, though there are a number of minor girls present inside the van, not a single female member of the crew is seen inside the van.’
The complaint further states, ‘I am shocked to see the behaviour of the said singer Angaraag Papon Mahanta towards a minor girl where he is seen to be applying colours on a minor girl and inappropriately kissing the girl. On seeing the video, I am seriously concerned regarding the safety and security of minor girls participating in reality shows across India.’
‘I believe the said singer (Papon) has committed sexual assault on the minor girl child and therefore I want an inquiry regarding aforesaid incident and punish the accused under section 7 & 8 of the Protection of Children From Sexual Offence Act, 2012.’
According to section 7, sexual assault includes ‘any other act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration,’ while section 8 prescribes a jail term not less than three years which may extend to five years, as well as a fine.
Lawyer Bhuyan, who moved the commission on Thursday after she found the video "very objectionable", told Rediff.com, "We have no idea what is happening in reality shows when children participate. These kids are below 15 years. These reality shows are harming kids' psyche and their future, too. If they want to continue, then there has to be proper guidelines laid down by the government for them to follow."
Defending himself, the singer said he is “an extremely affectionate and expressive” person and it did not occur to him that showing affection to an 11-year-old child, who he had been mentoring a while now, would be taken out of context.
Papon said if had bad intentions, he would not have shared video on his Facebook page.
“My humble request to everyone, when you do come across this matter is to just pause and think about how much harm this does to the people involved. I have a loving wife of over 14 years and two young children. There is a little girl involved, whose identity is not masked in any way. Both of our families are being destroyed forever, just by people jumping to conclusions.
“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. I am sorry for that. Please do accuse me of being naive and stupid even but please do not call me all those disgusting names,” he said in a statement.
The child’s father has also supported the singer in the case, saying Papon is a “father figure” to his daughter.
“It was just a moment of affection that is being portrayed otherwise. I would request and urge the media to not pursue this further. He doesn’t differentiate among the children who are here and gives them equal guidance on pursuing their dreams,” he said.
“What you saw in the video is not intentional,” the contestant’s father said in a statement.
Citing the father’s statement, Papon said the girl and her family have gone on record to say that what is being depicted in the media is not what actually transpired.
“It is in fact just a case of faulty camera angles and an accidental move and not a sexual assault as being reported. The said incident transpired in the presence of personnel from the reality show and there is nothing objectionable about it,” Papon said.
He appealed to the media and his fans to “consider both sides of the story before maligning my public repertoire and damaging the reputation of this girl. My family stands by me in this tough time where I feel I am victimised for no fault of mine”.
The channel &TV issued a statement saying it will extend full support to all affected parties.
“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. We believe in nurturing talent with utmost sensitivity and care while we provide them the platform to showcase their aptitude.
“As a responsible channel, we are extending complete support to all parties who are impacted by this incident and will stand by them to help them through this situation,” the statement read.
-- With inputs from PTI
Image: Singer Papon. Photograph: Courtesy, Papon's Facebook page.