Tamil Nadu moves Supreme Court in student death case

It appeals for a stay on a High Court order transferring the case to CBI

Published - February 04, 2022 01:28 am IST - NEW DELHI

NEW DELHI, 24/11/2019: A view of Supreme Court of Inida, in New Delhi on November 25,2019. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

NEW DELHI, 24/11/2019: A view of Supreme Court of Inida, in New Delhi on November 25,2019. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

Tamil Nadu on Thursday appealed to the Supreme Court to stay a Madras High Court order transferring to the CBI the investigation into the death by suicide of a 17-year-old student in Thanjavur amid a controversy sparked by a private video on social media in which the girl allegedly said she was asked to convert to Christianity.

The State government, represented by advocate Joseph S. Aristotle, argued that there were no grounds before the Madurai Bench of the High Court to hand over the case to the CBI.

Tamil Nadu has challenged a series of interim orders passed by the High Court on January 21, 22 and 24. It has also asked the Supreme Court to set aside the January 31 order transferring the case to CBI and to expunge certain observations made by the single judge, including the one that the police were attempting to “derail” the investigation.

The State contended that the interim orders had interfered with the fair and impartial probe. The police investigation had travelled far. The statements of several witnesses had been taken. The student’s father has, meanwhile, filed a caveat in the Supreme Court.

Mr. Aristotle said the dying declarations made by the student, even to the magistrate, “did not talk about any conversion”.

He contended that the private video had surfaced after she died on January 19. He argued that the much-criticised press conference held by the District Police Superintendent was based on preliminary enquiries, at which point there was no material to suggest attempts at conversion. The police officer had conveyed that the probe would cover all angles.

The High Court had transferred the investigation to the CBI on the basis of a petition filed by the girl’s father, who alleged that the police were “pressurising” him and the person who took the video in question.

On January 21, the High Court had asked the police to “conduct themselves appropriately so as not to give rise to such allegations”. The single judge had restrained the police from “harassing” the person who took the video. On January 22, the High Court had observed that the “focus of the police should be the circumstances that led to the suicide of the child and cannot be directed against the person who had taken the video”.

At a subsequent hearing on January 24, the single judge recorded the “categorical confirmation” of the girl’s family about the “attempt to convert”. It noted that the investigating officer had confirmed before the court that the voice heard in the private video was that of the student. “In other words, the authenticity of the video is beyond dispute,” the single judge observed, though directing that the mobile phone on which it was recorded be sent for a forensic analysis.

The final order on January 31, transferring the case to the CBI, said the District Superintendent of Police wanted to “completely suppress the conversion angle altogether”.

“The CBI will undertake an independent investigation and shall not take into account any of the observations made in this order. Since contentions were advanced on either side, this court had to deal with them. Nothing set out in this order shall be construed as opinion on the merits of the matter,” the single judge observed in the January 31 order.

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