THREE TEACHERS of a city school were acquitted of charges of sexual harassment for “want of proper investigation” by a special court recently. Most of the victims, who were students of Class X, also did not support the prosecution case against the accused.
According to the prosecution, the three accused teachers had replaced the regular teachers at school in 2013. The victim students had, in their police statements, said that the accused would wink at them, pull their uniforms and even touch them inappropriately. During a dance programme in school, they had sexually harassed the students, after which the students approached the school principal to complain. The prosecution had also claimed that the girls were told by one of the accused that he was the son-in-law of the school’s trustee and that he would ensure they are failed, if they complained.
The main victim in the case, however, did not support the prosecution case along with five others. She told the court that she did not remember what had happened and that the police had not personally inquired with her but only taken her signature. She also admitted during the cross-examination that there was an agitation in school over the appointment of the three teachers as they had led to the transfer of the earlier ones.
A protest by the teachers in school was also supported by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the girl told the court. Other students also told the court they had never complained to the principal.
Another student, who supported the prosecution, told the court the accused had seen her in possession of a mobile phone and had directed that her parents be called. She said that the accused had also behaved badly with her and others and that she had complained to the principal, who informed the trustee but no action was taken.
The principal of the school, who also deposed before the court, said the student had complained to her and she informed the trustee.
The court observed the principal had on her own not taken any action on the complaints of the victims, nor had she verified the truth. The principal also denied pressurising the girls along with the MNS leaders into filing an FIR over the transfer of the teachers. The court also noted that no girls or their parents had lodged a written complaint to the principal or trustee and that there was no separate grievance cell at the school at that time.
The court also came down heavily against the investigating officer, observing that no effort was made to visit the spot of the incident and the classroom to verify if the premises had CCTV cameras. “As per admissions given by the principal that there are CCTV cameras installed in school, but IO has not taken any effort to collect the said CCTV footage which would have been definitely helpful to bring truth on record,” the court observed.