A Court of Inquiry has been constituted at the National Defence Academy (NDA) to probe a case of alleged molestation of three schoolgirls visiting the academy by an Army Havildar on December 24 last year. The alleged incident took place when a group of students were taken to the screening of a film on the NDA, at the Academy’s Habibullah Hall.
The convening order of the CoI constituted by the NDA says, “…assemble to investigate the alleged molestation of girl students of APS (name of place withheld) around 11 am on December 24 by Havildar (name withheld) during screening of a movie at NDA”.
Replying to a questionnaire from The Indian Express, the NDA spokesperson said, “Three girl students who were on a guided tour to NDA reported an incident of inappropriate behaviour to the authorities of NDA on 24 Dec 2017, wherein a Personnel below Officer rank (PBOR) was alleged to have brushed his hand while directing these girls to their seats during the screening of NDA movie at the auditorium.”
On whether an FIR was registered, the spokesman said, “On receipt of the complaint, NDA authorities took prompt action, wherein the officer-in-charge of the Auditorium along with his wife and two serving lady officers intervened and carried out preliminary investigation in presence of the school teachers. Thereafter parents of these girls and the Principal of the school were contacted regarding pursuing the case and lodging of an FIR. They did not want to lodge an FIR and they were assured of a fair inquiry.”
The spokesman said, “The initial investigation report by NDA police (part of NDA establishment) and two serving lady officers was sent to higher authorities within 24 hours and a CoI headed by a Lt Col and two serving officers including a lady officer was constituted immediately. The members of the CoI visited the school and recorded statements of witnesses in presence of the accused PBOR, and parents as well as the Principal. The parents of these girls have shown reluctance in prolonging the inquiry. Their statements have been recorded and further action will be based on the findings of the Court of Inquiry…
“This case does not fall under the ambit of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, as the issue does not involve a sexual offence, which is amply clear from the provisions of the Act. Further action as deemed fit; will be taken once the CoI have submitted their findings.”
A senior Pune city police officer who has probed multiple cases under the POCSO Act, however, said, “Touching inappropriately is categorised as sexual assault as per the Act, which also mentions that the information of the incident must be given to local police. No one in the institute has the legal powers to decide whether the offence was of a sexual nature or not. Further, it is only the court that has right to decide once a girl has complained.”
The school principal declined to comment.