The Madras High Court has recommended to the Tamil Nadu government to form panels in each and every school in the state to help prevent sexual offences against girl students. Justice P Velmurugan gave the direction while dismissing a criminal appeal from S Jayaseelan, pastor of a church in Salem, who challenged a lower court order convicting and sentencing him to five years of rigorous imprisonment in a case of sexual offence.
The judge observed that girl students may fear lodging complaints against teachers or others in the management of the schools regarding sexual offences. They would not disclose anything easily about the sexual assault to anyone.
”Hence, this court recommends to the Tamil Nadu government to form a committee at every school.” The panel should comprise a social welfare officer, the secretary of the district legal services authority, a woman police official not below the rank of Superintendent, district educational officer, a woman psychiatrist and a physician from a government hospital. The District Education Officers may inspect schools once a month and gather grievances of female students with regard to sexual assault.
The officers shall instill confidence among students to come forward to file complaints against sexual offenders, who may be a teaching or non-teaching staffer and also the members of the management, the judge said. The judge also directed the schools to keep a ’complaint box’ to enable victims freely complain about sexual assault.
The keys of the box should be under the control of the secretary, district legal services authority, who shall inspect it, along with the social welfare officer, once in a week and enquire into complaints, if any. If complaints revealed any prima facie case of sexual offence, they shall forward the same to the local police to proceed further, the judge added.