Haryana’s shame: 2 principals held for molesting girl students

The two recent back-to-back incidents of two Haryana government schools’ principals held for sexually harassing the girl students have brought infamy to the state from where the PM Modi had launched “Beti bachao, beti padhao’’ campaign in 2015. A report by Rajesh Moudgil

The two cases of the alleged sexual harassment of girl students by the principals of government schools of Jind and Kaithal districts, reported in less than a month’s time, has shamed Haryana, albeit the state government has cracked the whip on both the accused.

Sadly, the first case came to light after the suicide by a class XI student of a Government Senior Secondary School for Girls in Jind district on September 30 and there were talks that it could be linked to her sexual harassment by the accused principal of the school, Kartar Singh, 56.

Soon, an inquiry committee set up by the state government started interacting with the students of the school and found that more than 140 girl students – out of total 390 students of classes IX to XII it talked to – testified against the accused principal Kartar Singh.

On November 28, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar ordered Singh’s termination from service.

The decision to sack him was taken following the investigation report submitted by the Education Department against the accused principal. The Education Department issued the dismissal orders following approval from the Chief Minister under Article 311 of the Constitution. The reports of the Education Department and the district administration formed the basis of his dismissal from the service.

The report sent by the sub-divisional magistrate (civil) highlighted statements from several students against the principal’s misconduct. Subsequently, considering the gravity of the case and the allegations against the principal, this action was taken. Notably, the accused had already been arrested by the police, and a female principal had been appointed at the respective school, along with the appointment of 16 new staff members.

Meanwhile, the accused was also booked under SC/ST (prevention of atrocities) Act, after a girl belonging to scheduled caste, had deposed against the principal. With this, there were now six girls who had deposed against the principal under Section 164 CrPC.

The accused principal, who was earlier booked under Sections 341, 342, 354A and 506 and Sections 8 and 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and was arrested on November 4, is currently in jail in Jind.

A special investigation team (SIT) is also investigating into a case in which the class XI student of the school had ended her life at her residence on September 30 and there were allegations that the suicide could be linked to the sexual harassment of the students by principal.

The Kaithal School Case

Even as the state government was going whole hog to control the damage caused by the Jind case, another case, this time from Kaithal district, surfaced on December 7 when the principal of the government senior secondary school was arrested for allegedly molesting some girl students of class XII.

The accused principal, Ravi Kumar, 52, was booked a day before under section 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and under section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 354-A (sexual harassment) of IPC.

Meanwhile, even though a contractor, who had been hired for some construction work in the same school, had also been booked for the same offence, he was said to be absconding.

The case had initially come to light after several girl students of the school decided to break their silence on December 4 and gave a written complaint to the village sarpanch. It was at this point that the  villagers decided to stand by the victims and approach the Haryana State Commission for Women (HSCW) and apprised its chairperson, Renu Bhatia, about the same as well as the district superintendent of police (SP).

The district SP, Upasana said that four girls had accused the principal of sexual harassment in their statements before the magistrate following which the police arrested the accused, who was sent to the judicial custody.

She said that a special investigation team (SIT) has also been formed to probe the case. Meanwhile, the state government has also suspended the accused principal.

Meanwhile, there were also reports that the accused principal used to misbehave with not only students but also with the teachers and used abusive language. The students and teachers, who did not want to be named, held that the district education office was also informed about the same following which the accused principal had gone for 10-day leave.

According to information, an eight-member committee of Haryana Vidyalaya Adhyapak Sangh had also visited the school following the complaints against the accused. However, the committee had to face protests from students and the villagers who alleged inaction against the accused. Also, the local sarpanch and several villagers had also approached the HSCW about the incident and alleged that even police was not taking any action on their complaints. The chairperson, subsequently, contacted the district SP in the context.

Meanwhile, the state government has asked the chairperson of the HSWC, Renu Bhatia, to organise seminars with the police to prevent such incidents in future.

However, even as all the political parties and senior Congress leaders including Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Kumari Selja have assailed the ruling BJP-Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) over the worsening law and order situation as well as deteriorating educational standards, sparks are set to fly over the issues pertaining Jind and Kaithal girl schools in the upcoming winter session of Haryana assembly.