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Mumbai: School principal gets justice for students against sexual harassment after 5 years

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An Andheri school principal drove to penury while struggling to get justice for five-years. When she filed a complaint against a fellow teacher for sexually harassing 40 female students, has found justice with a special POCSO court sentencing the teacher to three years of rigorous imprisonment on Monday.

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The court on Monday convicted the teacher under section 12 of the (POCSO) Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, but found him not guilty of sexual assault, outraging modesty, and criminal intimidation. The teacher got bail and has the option of moving to the high court against the verdict.

The conviction was based on the statement of three students which was recorded under section 164 of the CRPC, and corroborative statements of fellow students, who said they would pour water on the benches or keep their bags to prevent the teacher from sitting next to them. The teacher has also been asked to pay Rs 25,000 to each of the three students. “The children can live free from today,” the principal said, her voice choking with emotion.

It all started in April 2013, when three students approached the principal’s office and alleged that the teacher would send them porn clips and touch them inappropriately in the class. In December the same year, around 40 students of the same class made a similar complaint against the teacher.

The school management accused the principle for spreading lies about the teacher. Management even did not clear her dues since July 2014, she had to depend on her former students to pay for the daily expenses and the EMIs. She stayed at gurudwaras, churches, and at friends’ homes because she could not afford hotels while she was staying in Delhi for the Court hearings. An NGO called ‘Mass’ came to help the principal. Both the Schools Tribunal and the Bombay High Court upheld that the principal’s sacking was wrong and finally, the Supreme Court ruled in 2017 said that the principal must be reinstated with immediate effect and directed the school to pay her full back wages.

Yesterday after the verdict the principal said, “My job was to ensure that the charges were not dismissed as lies. We had to prove that these were facts. Those who committed such crimes have no right to be in a school. Teachers are supposed to be role models, but this man has tarnished the image of all teachers. Instead of Guru Brahma, he became the destroyer,” the principal said. She said that she’s back to work but the hostility between her and the school management continue. “I am being harassed in the hope that it will frustrate me,” she said. Recounting her three-year court battle, she said, “I would plead with the management, asking them what wrong I committed. Today, I stand vindicated.”

The teacher was quoted saying to the Mirror that he was framed in the case by the principal out of “revenge.” “When did sitting next to a woman or putting hands in one’s trouser pockets become a crime? On buses and trains, we sit next to women. The principal claimed 39 students wrote to her against me, but while filing the case she only provided three names. She instigated the students. I have won an award for best teaching aid and was given a clean chit in the school’s internal inquiry. I will fight for justice and the truth shall prevail,” he said.

The principal dismissed the allegations of revenge, saying, “I was the one who gave him an award but when he committed an offence it was my duty to discipline him. Should I have remained silent?” The school management said that the teacher will be sacked after the verdict went against him. Regarding the clean chit by the school management, one of the trustees said, “The principal did not attend the hearing and we had no choice but to dismiss the charges against him.” The trustee said the principal was not removed from the school for filing a police complaint against the teacher. “There were other issues,” the trustee said.

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