15 July 2023 8:53 AM GMT
The Punjab & Haryana High Court has refused to quash the FIR lodged against a Faridabad school’s principal who allegedly failed to act on a student's complaints alleging homophobic bullying, leading him to commit suicide in 2022.“The occurrence in question preceded the alleged homophobic and transphobic bullying by the peers of the deceased child. The email was sent by the complainant...
The Punjab & Haryana High Court has refused to quash the FIR lodged against a Faridabad school’s principal who allegedly failed to act on a student's complaints alleging homophobic bullying, leading him to commit suicide in 2022.
“The occurrence in question preceded the alleged homophobic and transphobic bullying by the peers of the deceased child. The email was sent by the complainant to the petitioner on 23.09.2021 and due to the inaction on the part of the petition, the child committed suicide on 24.02.2022. Thus, the petitioner cannot plead excuses for not reporting the matter to the police for nearly five months,” observed the bench of Justice Harnaresh Singh Gill.
Allegation is that the principal being the overall incharge of the School and having been intimated about the said harassment and bullying, did not act in the matter as per the mandate of the Protection of the Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2022 (POCSO). The deceased child had mentioned the names of authorities in the suicide note, alleging the same.
He has been booked under Section 306 IPC and Sections 6, 18, 8, 21 of the POCSO Act.
The senior counsel for petitioner argued that there is no instigation on part of the petitioner and principal had played a role in sorting the issues. He further submitted that ingredients of Section 107 IPC are not made out so as to attract the provisions of Section 306 IPC.
On allegations under POCSO, he submitted that she has been dragged only for the fact that she is the Principal of the School.
On the other hand, the counsel for complainant argued that the Principal of the School did not ensure that the deceased-child, who belonged to LGBTQ community, did not fall prey to the unruly behavior of his peers at the School. It was further argued that in the suicide note left by the deceased, the cause that drove him to commit suicide clearly supports the complainant’s case.
Considering the submissions, the Court observed, “Section 19(1) of the POCSO Act, casts a duty upon all concerned, who either have an apprehension of an offence under the Act likely to be committed or has knowledge of such offence having been committed, to report the matter to the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local Police. Sub Sections (2) to (7) stipulate further course of action upon such matter having been reported in the manner provided in sub Section (1).”
Justice Gill said that the emphasis, therefore, is on the safety and security of the child and maintaining the confidentiality of his/her right to privacy. The obligation on the part of the person, so receiving such information or having knowledge of such information, is not to investigate the matter himself or herself, but the mandate of the POCSO Act, is to report the matter to the Police, he observed further.
Thus, to argue that the endeavour on the part of the petitioner to settle the matter at her level, would obliterate her liability under the POCSO Act, is untenable, he added.
Rejecting the argument of petitioner that in the absence of the children, who were alleged part of the incident of harassment and bullying, the petitioner cannot be tried under Section 21 of the POCSO Act, the bench said this cannot be accepted “for the simple reason that the reasons for the said students leaving the School or their possible expulsion from the School, cannot be gone into by this Court, in the present proceedings under Section 482 CrPC.”
Consequently, the petition to quash the FIR was rejected.
Case Title: Surjeet Khanna v. State of Haryana and another
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (PH) 129
Appearance: Senior advocate Vinod Ghai, with Advocates Arnav Ghai, and BNS Marok for the petitioner.
Rupinder Singh Jhand, Addl. AG, Haryana and Ankita Ahuja, AAG, Haryana.
Senior Advocate Sumeet Goel with Advocates Arpandeep Narula and Shivani Kushik for respondent No.2.
Aarti Malhotra respondent No.2 in person.
Advocate ADS Sukhija (Amicus Curiae).
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