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Thanjavur Student Suicide Case : Supreme Court To Hear TN DGP's Appeal Against CBI Probe In October 2022

5 Aug 2022 12:19 PM GMT
Thanjavur Student Suicide Case : Supreme Court To Hear TN DGPs Appeal Against CBI Probe In October 2022

The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned the special leave petition filed by Tamil Nadu Director General of Police against the order of the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench,) which transferred the investigation in the case relating to the suicide of a girl in Thanjavur to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

A bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Bela M Trivedi said that it will post the matter in October 2022 for final disposal. The High Court had ordered CBI probe in the matter after taking a critical view of the local police ruling out the allegations that attempts at religious conversion were the cause for the suicide of the girl, who was studying in a missionary school in Thanjavur district.

Senior Advocate P Wilson, appearing for the Tamil Nadu DGP, submitted that several adverse observations have been made by the High Court against the state police which need to be expunged.

The counsel for the congregation 'The Immaculate Heart of Mary Society', which runs the missionary school in which the girl was studying, submitted that the High Court has made observations against the entire Christian community.

Advocate Swarupama Chaturvedi, appearing for the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, requested the bench to take into account the report submitted by the NCPCR in sealed cover after enquiring into the incident, which happened in January 2022. Though the State sought for a copy of the report, the bench said that it cannot be shared at the present juncture, as it might interfere with the investigation.

Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani appeared for the victim's father, on whose petition the High Court ordered the CBI investigation.

The bench said that it will post the matter for final disposal and directed the matters to be listed on a non-miscelleanous day in October 2022.

In January, the Supreme Court, while issuing notice on the TN DGP's plea, had refused to interject with the CBI investigation and said that the probe by the central agency will continue in the meanwhile. .

The bench also issued notice in a connected Special Leave Petition filed by the congregation 'The Immaculate Heart of Mary Society', which runs the missionary school in which the girl was studying.

The High Court, in its January 31 order, had ordered by the CBI probe after taking a critical view of the stand taken by the local police that there was no basis for the allegation that the suicide was due to the forced attempts by the girl's Missionary School to convert her to Christianity.

The State has challenged all the interim orders including orders dated 21st, 22nd, 24th January 2022 on ground that they interfered with the investigation.
Through its order dated 22nd January, the Madras High Court had asked the police authorities to focus on the circumstances that led to the girl's suicide and directed the District Collector to make necessary arrangements to transfer the body to the deceased child's native place. Pertinently, the court also gave a strict mandate to the police not to harass the person who filmed the video of the girl child.
On 24th January, the High Court had ordered the forensic analysis of the viral video in which the deceased had allegedly spoken about the forced attempts of the school authorities to convert her to Christianity.

The girl, a Class 12 student of Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School, Michealpatti, had died on January 19 following an attempt to suicide. After her death, certain video clips of her recorded by a third party named Muthuvel emerged in social media, in which the girl had allegedly made statements about forcible conversion attempts.

The Madras High Court, through its judgement dated 31st January 2022 had harshly criticised the investigation by the Tamil Nadu police for ruling out the angle of alleged attempts of religious conversion to Christianity from her school.

The High Court had criticized the Superintendent of Police Tanjavur for making a press statement to rule out the conversion angle at an early stage.

The Court had also noted that the State Education Minister and two other High Ranking Ministers issued public statements exonerating the school management. The Education Department also released a report absolving the school. In this backdrop, the Court observed:

"It is too early in the day for the police or the politicians to jump to conclusions. But they have done so. That is why, the petitioner is apprehensive that if the investigation remains with State police, he will not get justice. His apprehension is justified" the court said

The High Court had further observed "What led the child to suicide has to be investigated. Before the investigation officer, the dying declaration of the child is available. Their authenticity is undoubted. Without doing so, District Superintendent of Police wanted to completely suppress the conversion angle. The foregoing circumstances cumulatively taken will definitely create an impression that the investigation is not proceeding on the right lines. Since a high ranking Hon'ble Minister himself has taken a stand, investigation cannot continue with the State Police".

The Court had observed that there was a "counter-narrative" being built that the girl was ill-treated at her home by her father and step-mother. Further, the I.T wing of the ruling party released portions of the private video that appear to exonerate the school authorities, which again raises considerable doubts about the credibility and impartiality of the investigation made by the State police, the Court said.

The deceased, a 12th Standard student in Thooya Irudhaya Higher Secondary School at Thirukattupalli, was staying at the School Hostel itself. Allegedly, she consumed poison (pesticide) inside the hostel premises on 9th January. The police took her statement on 16th January, based on which, the hostel warden was booked for offences under Sections 305, 511 of IPC and Sections 75 and 82(1) of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. The petitioner also submitted that the school management tortured her for not converting to Christianity.

The Prosecution had argued that the case was being politicized and communalized by certain vested interests and maintained that the investigation was going in the right track. The Court was told that Muthuvel, who took the video, was not cooperating with the investigation.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary Society constituted by "The Roman Catholic Congregation of the Order of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pondicherry", the school management which intervened in the case, dismissed the conversion allegations. The management submitted that majority of its students are Hindus and there have been no complaints of conversion against the school. The management alleged that the "bogey of conversion" was thrown to shield the real culprits and alluded that the girl was facing problems at her house.
Case Title: Director General of Police vs Muruganantham |SLP(Crl) No.1053-1056/2022 and The Immaculate Heart of Mary Society vs Muruganantham | SLP(Crl) 1246/2022

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