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Police warned against mentioning names of sexual offence victims

Personal details should be kept in a sealed cover, says High Court judge

Telangana High Court has dismissed a writ petition filed by a suspended school principal, who was accused of sexually harassing a girl student of the school, seeking to set aside and quash the disciplinary proceedings initiated against him.

Justice P. Naveen Rao, pronouncing the judgement, said mentioning name of the victim by the police in the case records showed their insensibility and blatant violation of law. Police mentioned names of the victim and her parents in the First Information Report, Remand Report and charge-sheet in the case. Referring to Supreme Court rulings on the matter, the judge directed the DGP to ensure names of victims and their family members in sexual offences were not mentioned by police in records.

Justice P. Naveen Rao requested the Chief Secretary to take note of Supreme Court observations on the matter, formulate guidelines and pass on them to managements of all schools, colleges along with print and electronic media to comply with the same. Expressing displeasure over names of the victim and her parents being disclosed by the school management in the counter affidavit and other records, the judge warned it to be careful in future. Personal details of the student should be kept in a sealed cover, the judge said.

Delivering the verdict, the judge noted that it was neither advisable nor desirable to defer disciplinary proceedings, which got stalled as the petition was pending for more than two years, in the case. The petitioner Kedarnath Mahapatra, who got released on bail after being arrested by Rachakonda police in November, 2017, has liberty to defend himself as per law in the domestic inquiry, the judgement said.

As per police records, the principal called the 14-year-old ninth standard student into his cabin and made sexual advances towards her on October 28, 2017. While police arrested him and sent him to judicial remand, the school authorities suspended him and instituted an inquiry.

Citing different verdicts of Supreme Court, the petitioner’s counsel contended that conducting disciplinary proceedings before finalisation of criminal case would cause prejudice to the petitioner. The respondent’s counsel, citing various apex court judgements, argued that disciplinary action and criminal proceedings can be initiated simultaneously.

The judge noted that it must be established beyond reasonable doubt to convict an accused for a crime. However, theory of preponderance of probabilities is relied upon in taking disciplinary action. Thus, both are different, the verdict said.

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