MADURAI: Amid a spurt in sexual assault cases against children in the state, a Madras High Court direction to the State government to ensure the installation of complaint boxes in every school to encourage students to complain about sexual abuse remains only on paper in Madurai district.
But for a few schools in the district, most schools are yet to install a complaint box as recommended by the high court.
The Madras HC in July this year has directed that after installing the complaint box, the keys should be under the control of the Secretary, District Legal Services Authority (DLSA). The DLSA and social welfare officer were entrusted with the job of inspecting the complaint boxes once every week. If they come across any complaints they should forward them to the police station concerned.
The court further said that in each district a committee comprising District Social Welfare Officer, Secretary to the District Legal Services Authority, a woman police officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police, District Educational Officer, a woman psychiatrist, and a physician from the Government Hospital to help the children in distress.
Apart from this, the court insisted that phone numbers of committee members and All Woman Police stations must be displayed on the notice board.
There are 500-odd Government, Government aided and Private Schools in the district, and TNIE randomly visited a few schools in the district to check how many schools have complied with the recommendations.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Muthupillai, Headmaster of Government Higher Secondary School, Vedarpulaiyankulam said after they received a reminder mail from the CEO office ten days ago, they installed a complaint box on the school premises.
"We have also displayed police station numbers, helpline number '14417' and childline number '1098' inside the premises to report," he said.
Head of Government Higher Secondary School, Othakadai S Sasithra said that recently the CEO has directed them to install the complaint box and send the photograph to their WhatsApp group.
A Government School Head, on condition of anonymity, said if they installed a complaint box on the campus, it would create other problems. However, the school has a few teachers in charge to look into this issue, she said.
"It is the opinion of most of the School heads. They are afraid that such complaints may tarnish the school's reputation. For them it becomes more important to protect the teachers/alleged perpetrators than their children," she said.
Chief Educational Officer R Swaminathan said he will soon ensure that the high court directions are implemented.
The District Legal Service Authority, Madurai Secretary, and Sub Judge V Deepa told The New Indian Express, that under the guidance of Chairman/Principal District Judge P Vadamalai steps are being taken to monitor complaint boxes in schools.
"We are planning to educate the schools on the significance of complaint boxes," she said.
All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) District President R Sasikala said it is mandatory to set up a complaint box.
"If any school fails to install a complaint box, it would amount to contempt of court. The complaints should be kept a secret at any cost so that school teachers do not threaten the students," she said. She said she will ask the members of the Students Federation of India (SFI) to check whether the court guidelines have been implemented.