Student Suicide: Punjab & Haryana High Court declines to quash POCSO case against Principal of DPS who did not report harassment, bullying

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The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday declined to quash a case against the principal of Delhi Public School, Greater Faridabad booked for abetment of suicide and for offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) for failing to report incidents of bullying and harassment of a student by his classmates which eventually led to the suicide of the student [Surjeet Khanna vs State of Haryana and another].

Justice Harnaresh Singh Gill observed the principal could not give excuses for not reporting the matter to the police, an offence punishable under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), for nearly five months.

“The obligation on the part of the person, so receiving such information or having knowledge of such information, is not to investigate the matter himself or herself, but the mandate of the POCSO Act, is to report the matter to the Police. Thus, to argue that the endeavour on the part of the petitioner to settle the matter at her level, would obliterate her liability under the POCSO Act, is untenable. The occurrence in question preceded the alleged homophobic and transphobic bullying by the peers of the deceased child“, the single-judge noted.

Sections 19 and 21 of the POCSO Act mandate that persons aware of child sexual harassment should report the same to the police.

The High Court observed so while dismissing the plea by the principal, Surjeet Khanna, seeking to quash the FIR in connection with the incident involving 16-year-old teen boy.

The judge at the outset noted that the court had “deep concerns for and all sympathies with the parents of the child and wish this unfortunate act had not happened.”

The Court rejected the contention that the principal had been falsely implicated in the case.

“The email was sent by the complainant to the petitioner on September 23, 2021 and due to the inaction on the part of the petition, the child committed suicide on February 24, 2022,” the Court said.

It was argued that the principal cannot be tried in the absence of the guilty students who had since left the school. But the Court turned down the contention.

“(It) cannot be accepted, for the simple reason that the reasons for the said students leaving the School or their possible expulsion from the School cannot be gone into by this Court, in the present proceedings under Section 482 CrPC,” the Court stated.

It was clarified that the above observations are not to influence the trial court proceedings.

Senior Advocate Vinod Ghai along with advocates Arnav Ghai and BNS Marok represented the petitioner.

Additional Advocates General Rupinder Singh Jhand and Ankita Ahuja appeared for the Haryana government.

Senior Advocate Sumeet Goel with advocates Arpandeep Narula and Shivani Kushik appeared for the complainant, the boy’s mother, Aarti Malhotra. Advocate ADS Sukhija was the Amicus Curiae.

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