CHENNAI: A day after suspending two of its preachers for sending inappropriate messages to female students, international organisation Scripture Union on Tuesday lodged a police complaint against the duo in Chennai.
SU had admitted to The New Indian Express on Monday that it was made aware of the alleged misbehaviour of its preacher Samual Jaisundar at least two months ago when parents of a 19-year-old made an oral complaint against him. TNIE had flagged that SU might have had a responsibility to report the matter to the authorities given Jaisundar’s continued access to minor schoolchildren and the POCSO Act’s mandatory reporting clause.
The matter came to light after a Twitter user with the handle @joelgiftson17 shared screenshots of chat conversations purportedly between Jaisundar and another SU preacher Reuben Clement and young girls between the ages of 10-17.
While TNIE was unable to reach Clement for comments, it managed to contact Jaisundar by phone on Tuesday.
Jaisundar, who has worked with SU since 2006, regularly visited schools across Tamil Nadu and conducted Vacation Bible School and summer camps for Bible studies. Speaking to TNIE, he did not dispute the authenticity of the screenshots shared on social media but claimed his intentions in the chat conversations with the girls were "not malicious".
Although he acknowledged he had engaged in conversations with students, he said, "My intentions were not malicious. Some of my messages were misread."
When pressed on why he asked the children for photographs of themselves dressed in skirts and frocks, he said, "I will answer the inquiry committee… whatever they ask." He refused to respond to further questions.
SU, in its complaint to the police, named both Jaisundar and Clement for allegedly sending inappropriate texts to female school students, many of whom were still minors.
The organisation’s complaint mentioned that it received a verbal complaint against Jaisundar from a 19-year-old girl on August 4.
"Mr Samuel Jaisundar had indulged in sending inappropriate text messages on social media to the said (name withheld by TNIE) and that both of them have been chatting with each other for some time and in pursuance to the oral complaint received from ** and her father had restrained Mr Samuel Jaisundar from visiting schools and also refrain from any interaction with school children," the complaint said.
The complaint further stated that members of the organisation, after looking through the leaked chats on social media, "understand" that Reuben Clement had also allegedly indulged in sending inappropriate text messages on social media to girl students. The organisation suspended both its staff on Monday and is conducting its own inquiry as well. A senior police officer said they are looking into the matter.