Court orders CBI probe into Thanjavur schoolgirl’s death caseMadurai January 31, 2022 14:20 IST
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court said that since State Ministers had taken a stand and the Thanjavur SP had ruled out the conversion angle, the impression was that the investigation was not proceeding along the right lines
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Monday, January 31, 2022, transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigatio (CBI) the probe into the death by suicide of a girl, who was studying at a Christian missionary-run school in Thanjavur district.
The court was hearing the petition filed by the parents of the girl, who alleged that she was forced to do domestic chores at the hostel.
They said the girl was asked to convert to Christianity. The parents first sought a CB-CID probe. Later, they sought a probe by the CBI.
Child rights panel
Justice G.R. Swaminathan observed that the State Ministers had expressed their opinions and taken a stand on the issue. The Thanjavur Superintendent of Police asserted at a press conference that the conversion angle was not made out in the preliminary inquiry. Such a statement was unwarranted because by then the private video had already been in circulation. The parents had given a complaint alleging that there was an attempt to convert the child to Christianity. By stating that the conversion angle stood ruled out, the Superintendent of Police had brushed aside the parents’ complaint. After all, an allegation was made that there was an attempt to convert. The school in question is run by a congregation.
The Holy Bible says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”. This is called in Christian theological terms the Great Commission, the judge observed.
Further, the judge observed that the person who shot the video of the girl did not commit any offence as such. It was only the subsequent sharing of the video on social media without suppressing the identity of the girl which attracted the offence under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. In this case, the shooting was done at the instance of the father of the girl. The authenticity of the video had been admitted. The School Education Minister and two others had expressed their opinions and the Education Department also came out with a statement exonerating the school management of the charge of conversion.
The contents of the dying declaration were leaked to the media. The original mobile phone was handed over to the investigating officer. Thereafter, the IT wing of the ruling party released portions of the private video that appeared to exonerate the school authorities. This raised considerable doubts about the credibility and impartiality of the investigation, the judge observed.
The original narrative is that the girl died by suicide, unable to bear with the treatment meted out to her by the hostel warden. The statements made in the private video indicated that there was an attempt at conversion. The complaint of the father was that since the girl did not convert, she was harassed. Whether there was truth in the allegation was a matter for investigation and eventually for the court to decide. But a counter-narrative was being built as if the father and the stepmother of the child had been responsible for the suicide. Allegations were being made that Child Line received complaints that the girl was cruelly treated by the stepmother. Such deliberate leaks dented the credibility of the investigation, the judge observed.
The attempt of the police appeared to be to derail the investigation. The two videos must be taken together and a final call could be taken only after a thorough investigation. It was too early in the day for the police or the politicians to jump to conclusions. But they had done so.
The hostel warden was arrested on January 18. The court directed the jurisdictional court to dispose of the bail petition of the warden based on the available materials. It took note of the fact that the place where the school is situated is known as Michealpatti. Obviously it could not have been the original name. There is an interesting discussion on how the various areas in Chennai acquired their names in V. Sriram’s Chennai. Someone could undertake a similar exercise for Michealpatti too, the judge observed.
( Assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts is available on the State’s health helpline 104 and Sneha’s suicide prevention helpline 044-24640050 ).