‘Navodaya principal a threat to girls’

Mahim Pratap Singh
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Former Army Public School teacherMangala Bhatt -Photo: Rohit Jain Paras
Former Army Public School teacherMangala Bhatt -Photo: Rohit Jain Paras

Mangala Bhatt, the former Army Public School (APS) teacher who had alleged sexual harassment by the then Principal of the school, Rajeev Kumar Singh, has demanded cancellation of his appointment as Principal at Navodya Vidyalaya in Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh.

In a letter to the Commissioner, Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (UP), People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) general secretary Kavita Srivastava demanded cancellation of Mr. Singh's appointment citing the sexual harassment case against Ms. Bhatt when he was Principal, APS.

Ms. Srivastava, who addressed a joint Press conference here with Ms. Bhatt, alleged that the Army Public School “concealed information regarding sexual harassment case against the Principal while issuing his character certificate”.

The defence establishment, however, washed its hands of the matter, saying Mr. Singh was no longer a part of the school.

“Mr. R.K. Singh had resigned from the Army Public School on 24th February, 2013, on his own accord to take up a new assignment,” Defence spokesperson Colonel S.D. Goswami told The Hindu .

Ms. Srivastava expressed shock “that the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti refused to check his antecedents before appointing him”, especially when he was being tried in a Jaipur court under Sections 354 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code and the case had been reported widely in the local and national media.

“We also fear that Mr Singh who tried to harass several women will now be heading a school where there are more than 200 girls and several women teachers. Are they not under threat?” she asked.

In 2010, Ms. Bhatt had accused Mr. Singh of sexual harassment, following which two inquiries were conducted by the Army Public School.

Dissatisfied with the nature and outcome of the inquires, Ms. Bhatt lodged a complaint against Mr. Singh at the Vaishali Nagar police station in April 2011 and at the Mahila Police Thana, Jaipur South, in May 2011.

In May 2011, Ms. Bhatt was sacked from the school on the ground of inefficiency.

Sources in the defence establishment, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two inquiries conducted to probe the matter found Mr. Singh innocent and wondered “why did it take five months for the teacher to file a FIR with the Jaipur Police”.

Ms. Bhatt, however, alleged that the inquiries were biased and did not ensure justice to her, with the first inquiry being conducted in the presence of her perpetrator Mr. Singh and the second conducted in the “token, one-day presence” of a female member.

She also accused the APS staff of intimidating, harassing and attempting to bribe her witnesses, school help Meena Devi and four others.

In January last year, Ms. Bhatt, accompanied by CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat, met Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony who assured her of an impartial inquiry.

Also last year, the Rajasthan Women's Commission observed that the APS was not following the Supreme Court's Vishakha guidelines on sexual harassment at workplaces while the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) asked the APS to transfer Mr. Singh for three months and conduct an impartial inquiry in accordance with the Vishakha guidelines. The CBSE also asked the school to reinstate Ms. Bhatt and Meena Devi.



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