“Child sexual abuse happens because the system of silence around the act perpetuates it. It represses children; the repression of children is unlikely to create a flourishing society, economically, emotionally, equally or spiritually,” began a judgment passed by the Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday quoting Pinki Virani, author of Bitter Chocolate.
Justice K. Chandru delivered the judgment in a couple of writ petitions filed by the father of a seventh standard girl who was one among many reportedly subjected to various forms of sexual abuse by S. Arockiasamy, headmaster of a government high school at Podhumbu, a nondescript village in Madurai West Taluk here. The educational authorities had suspended him from service last year after a preliminary enquiry.
The petitioner had sought compensation as well as a fair investigation by the police. Accepting both the pleas, the judge directed the Madurai Collector to pay a compensation of Rs.1.2 lakh to every girl child who was sexually abused by the headmaster under the threat of awarding low marks in the examinations and making adverse remarks in their conduct certificates.
Arriving at the compensation amount of Rs.1.2 lakh from the statutory prescription for victims of sexual exploitation under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the judge made it clear that a similar amount must be paid to non-Dalit student victims too without any discrimination.
According to him, the students in general were entitled to relief under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act 2005. Since a State Commission, which could recommend such relief, was yet to be formed in Tamil Nadu, the judge utilised the statute to order compensation to all victims of sexual abuse.
The judge directed the police not to allow the headmaster to enter Podhumbu village until a charge sheet was filed against him. Even the other teachers who had been transferred to different places on the charge of acting in favour of the headmaster should not be posted back in the Podhumbu school.
Appreciating petitioner's counsel Ms. Nirmal Rani as well as Madurai Superintendent of Police Asra Garg for the excellent assistance rendered by them in the present case, the judge directed the SP to nominate a woman police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police to continue the investigation.
He was also asked to ensure that the victim students were not harassed in the guise of cross examination during the course of trial.
The SP was further directed to recommend the name of a woman advocate to the Government for being appointed as a Special Public Prosecutor to try the accused. The trial court was also ordered to decide the case without being influenced by observations made in the present petition for the purpose of granting compensation.