Saturday, October 1, 2022

Tamil Nadu student suicide: Supreme Court refuses to interfere with Madras HC order on CBI probe

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The Supreme Court on Monday refused to interfere with the decision of the Madras High Court to transfer to CBI, the alleged religious conversion and suicide case of a 17-year-old in Thanjavur.

A Bench comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Bela Trivedi passed the order on a special leave petition filed by the Tamil Nadu government, through the state’s Director General of Police (DGP), challenging the order of the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) transferring the case from local police to the CBI.

The Apex Court told the Tamil Nadu Government to not make the case a prestige issue by opposing the High Court order for a CBI investigation. The Court further asked the Tamil Nadu Police to hand over all the evidence collected until now to the CBI.

The Bench also made it clear that the CBI should also probe the allegations of forced conversion.

While issuing notice to the respondents, the Court directed that the investigation will continue in terms of the impugned order.

The DGP said that the High Court erred in transferring the probe to CBI. The petition also sought directions from the Supreme court to expunge the remarks made by the High Court against the investigation conducted by the State Police.

The Madras High Court, in its January 31 order, had ordered CBI probe, after taking a critical view of the stand taken by the local police that there was no basis for the allegation that the suicide was due to the forced attempts by the girl’s Missionary School to convert her to Christianity.

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The case stems from an incident that took place in January, when a girl student had consumed pesticide when she was in her school hostel.

The girl, a Class 12 student of Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School, Michealpatti, had died on January 19 following an attempt to suicide. After her death, certain video clips of her recorded by a third party named Muthuvel emerged in social media, in which the girl had allegedly made statements about forcible conversion attempts.

A Single-Judge Bench of Justice G.S. Swaminathan had passed the orders on a plea by Lavanya’s father, seeking probe by a Central agency into his daughter’s death.

The High Court had heavily criticised Thanjavur SP Ravali Priya for holding a press conference ruling out the conversion angle, stating that the SP “probably forgot the virtues of silence”.

The suicide case should be investigated from all angles, the judge noted and pulled up the SP for choosing to ‘proclaim’ that

“the conversion angle was ruled out, instead of directing the jurisdictional police to conduct investigation.”

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Justice Swaminathan also pointed out to an interview given by School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi. The Judge observed that since high ranking minister himself has taken a stand, investigation cannot continue with the state police.

In one of the recorded videos that emerged in public, Lavanya stated that she was was tortured and exploited by hostel warden Sagaya Mary, and was being forced to convert to Christianity.

The family of Lavanya has demanded a CBI probe in the suicide case. Lavanya’s parents said that they do not trust the probe of Tamil Nadu Police and want CBI to investigate the matter .The family alleged that the police is ignoring religious conversion part and only focusing on harassment by the nuns.

Lavanya’s parents continued to maintain that the mistreatment was because Lavanya had refused to convert to Christianity.

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