Conversion row: High Court orders CBI probe into girl"s suicide

  • | Monday | 31st January, 2022

Madurai, Jan 31 (PTI) The Madras High Court Bench here on Monday directed transferring the probe into the death by suicide of a 17-year-old girl, allegedly coerced to convert to Christianity, to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Justice G R Swaminathan ordered the transfer of the case after hearing the arguments of the petitioner, the girl"s father and also the school management. "This Court has a duty to render posthumous justice to the child. The foregoing circumstances cumulatively taken will definitely create an impression that the investigation is not proceeding on the right lines. Since a high ranking Hon"ble Minister himself has taken a stand, investigation cannot continue with the State Police. I therefore direct the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi to assign an officer to take over investigation from the State Police," the court ruled. CBI will undertake an independent investigation and shall not take into account any of the observations made in this order, the judge added. The 17-year-old student of the missionary school in Thanjavur belonged to Ariyalur district. A few days ago, she died by suicide. The girl, a hostel inmate, was allegedly coerced to convert to Christianity. A video clip in this connection had gone viral. The school management had rejected the allegation and had blamed vested interests. The victim"s father had demanded a CB-CID investigation "but in the final hearing, the original prayer was given up and the request was for transfer of investigation to CBI," the court said. The judge said the Superintendent of Police held a press conference stating that the preliminary investigation conducted by the police ruled out the conversion angle. In this background, the father of the child filed this petition seeking transfer of investigation. In the police statement as well as in the statement before the judicial magistrate, the child had directly and in unambiguous terms accused the hostel warden of burdening her by assigning her non-academic chores and unable to bear the same, she consumed the pesticide. That is why, the hostel warden Sister Saghayamary was arrested and remanded to judicial custody Further, the counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted that apart from the state Education Minister, two other high ranking Ministers have also expressed opinions on the same lines, virtually ruling out the conversion angle. "The Education Department has also come out with a statement exonerating the school management of the charge of conversion," the judge said. The judge also referred to two movies dealing with conversion and said "one may wonder if in a judgment of a constitutional court, there should be references to popular culture." "I will not stop with a rhetorical Why Not ? Reviewing Irwin Allan Sealy"s “ASOCA : A Sutra”, in the latest issue of Frontline, Shonaleeka Kaul, a professional historian confesses that her foray into research in early India owes its inspiration to watching a TV Serial on Chanakya telecast on Doordarshan in the 1990s. It is beyond dispute that Art reflects life. While movies, particularly, Tamil movies are notorious for melodrama and exaggeration, they do contain a kernel of truth," he said. The judge said the attempt of the police appears to be to derail the investigation. "I find merit in the petitioner"s counsel"s contention that the police, instead of finding out the truth of the allegations made by the deceased victim, have been trying to bolster the counter narrative." PTI SSN SA BN BN

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