Two months after Pocso case, accused teachers continue in same school in TN

The main suspect, the physical education teacher, has been arrested, but the victim’s family has been demanding action against the HM, AHM and four other teachers also.
A Devaneyan, a child rights activist said safety of the victim and other students will be ensured only if the teachers involved are terminated from service.
A Devaneyan, a child rights activist said safety of the victim and other students will be ensured only if the teachers involved are terminated from service.Photo | Express Illustrations

COIMBATORE: One year after a class IX girl student belonging to a SC community was allegedly sexually harassed in a government school situated on Siruvani road, Perur All-Women Police booked six more teachers who tried to hush up the incident and allegedly threatened the girl under sections of SC/ST Act and POCSO Act.

The main suspect, the physical education teacher, has been arrested, but the victim’s family has been demanding action against the HM, AHM and four other teachers also. The victim’s mother said she came to know about the case against the six only after she filed a RTI query as police and education department did not respond to her petitions.

According to sources, the girl was sexually harassed by the PE teacher on April 15, 2023, when she was in class VIII. The girl reported it to the teachers, assistant HM, and Headmistress, but they did not report to police and tried to hush it up. Some teachers allegedly threatened the girl’s family. In December 2023 the issue came to light and police booked a case against the PE teacher under sections 9 (f), 10 of POCSO Act. The case was altered with sections 21 (2) of the POCSO Act, 3 (2) (v) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and section 366 (inducing) of IPC. Later based on the investigation, the police invoked sections 3 (1)(r) of the SC/ST Act and 506 (i) of IPC.

The prime suspect 40-year-old PE teacher was booked for his alleged sexual harassment. The school headmistress (60) was booked under charges of failing to report the incident to the police. The Assistant HM (42), four teachers aged 37, 60, 57, and 60 were booked for threatening the girl for revealing the tragedy she faced. The charge sheet of the case was submitted before the special court for POCSO Act cases on March 15, 2024, according to the RTI reply.  The kin of the victim alleged that neither police nor the education department has taken against the other suspects. Since they  continue to work in the same school where the victim is studying, the girrl’s parents feared for her safety.

When contacted, Chief Educational Officer of Coimbatore District R Balamurali, he told TNIE that he was not aware of the alteration in the case and that he did not receive any official communication related to the case against six teachers. The school education department director G Arivoli also said that he would look into the issue.

A Devaneyan, a child rights activist said safety of the victim and other students will be ensured only if the teachers involved are terminated from service. “There is a difference between a layman committing such a crime and a teacher - who is responsible for protecting children in schools- committing the crime. The POCSO Act prescribes seven years imprisonment for layman and ten years for such duty bearers.  Also, as the child faces mental trauma for the rest of her life, the teachers should be suspended permanently as per GO 121, 2012. Handling such issues in a lethargic manner will only benefit the perpetrators,” Devaneyan said.

“The accused teachers continuing to work as usual will put a lot of stress on the victim. The education department should take action considering that such incidents have already happened in Coimbatore. At least child protection policy should be implemented in schools from this year,” he added.

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