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Judiciary

Half baked evidence in sexual harassment may jeopardise reputation of teacher: SC [Read Judgment]

By Jhanak Singh      12 March, 2024 04:07 PM      0 Comments
Half baked evidence in sexual harassment may jeopardise reputation of teacher: SC

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered release of two teachers of a higher secondary school in Tamil Nadu, imprisoned for alleged sexual harassment of a girl student after finding material contradictions in the case, saying half baked evidence can jeopardise the reputation of the teacher and his fundamental right to lead a life of dignity.  

It said sexual harassment of a girl student by a teacher is a grave offence for its far reaching consequences but care has to be taken in such cases.

A bench of Justices Dipankar Datta, K V Vishwanathan and Sandeep Mehta provided relief to Nirmal Premkumar and another teacher. Both Premkumar and another were sentenced to three and two years in jail for offences under POCSO Act and criminal intimidation under the IPC respectively.

Also Read - Woman judge seeks permission to end life alleging no action on sexual harrasment complaint

The first teacher was accused by a girl student of trying to hand her over roses, jasmine flowers and chocolate on Valentine's day on February 14, 2018. The other teacher allegedly intimidated her.

"We quite agree that an act of sexual harassment of a girl student (who is also a minor) by any teacher would figure quite high in the list of offences of grave nature since it has far-reaching consequences, which impact more than just the parties to the proceeding," the bench said in its judgment.

"At the same time, it is axiomatic that reputation is earned by a teacher upon rendering service over the years and an accusation like the present would remain as an indelible mark marring his entire future life. Care has, therefore, to be taken so that his right to live a life of dignity and personal liberty are not put to jeopardy on the basis of half-baked evidence," the bench added.

In the case, the court noted the prosecution's case was marked by lacklustre efforts, revealing a poorly executed endeavour that gives rise to substantial doubts regarding the integrity of the case.

Also Read - Kerala government introduces sexual awareness program in grade 7 textbooks, informs High Court

"The victim's version appears muddled and prevaricated, much less coherent. It is precisely these inconsistencies and contradictions, which are material, that compel us to reject the case set up by the prosecution before the Special Court with which the Madras High Court concurred adopting a flawed approach," the bench said.

The court said none of the students present in the classroom was examined except one, i.e. who turned hostile to the case set up by the prosecution right from the word go.

The bench also pointed out there were manifest discrepancies between the statement of the victim recorded under Section 164, CrPC and her deposition recorded in court.

The conviction of A-1 and A-2, as recorded by the Special Court and the sentence imposed upon them, since affirmed by the High Court, stand set aside, the court said

"A-1 and A-2 are still behind bars. They shall be immediately released from custody, if not wanted in any other case," the court ordered.

 

[Read Judgment]



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