Madras High Court

Madras High Court: In a suicide case by a 17-year-old school boy, filed against the headmaster S.M. Subramaniam, J. has held that the teachers and headmasters may be blamed only, if there is evidence to establish that they have committed any offence or violated the code of conduct issued by the department of school education. Further, who is responsible for the commission of suicide by the child, is the subjective satisfaction to be established by conducting an elaborate enquiry or investigation and simply blaming the headmasters or teachers would result in causing dis-reputation to the institution, which is not desirable.

The petitioner submitted that her son, was tortured and harassed by the school headmaster, as he used to cut the hair of the boys in public, tear their trousers using the blade, beat them ruthlessly and abuse them using filthy language. The petitioner states that her son was also subjected to such ill-treatment and on account of such continuous behavior of the headmaster, the son of the petitioner committed suicide. The grievance of the petitioner was that the Police had not proceeded with the investigation and no enquiry was conducted properly.

The Court considered the report of the District Education Officer and the Chief Education Officer, wherein it was submitted that the headmaster is not responsible for commission of suicide of the petitioner’s son. Further, the Education Officer also found that the deceased student was irregular in attending the classes and the headmaster used to maintain discipline inside the school by taking additional efforts to provide better coaching to the students to achieve best results. Moreover, the Police investigation also revealed that the allegations raised by the petitioner are false and the headmaster is no way connected with the suicide of the deceased boy.

The Court observed that the headmaster worked hard to achieve better results in the school, and has maintained discipline in the school, only for the betterment of the children studying in the school, and if such an effort if discouraged, then the teachers and the headmasters will not be in a position perform their duties with devotion.

The Court held that the practice of defaming the headmasters and teachers cannot be accepted and they are liable only if their misconduct or misbehavior are established through sufficient evidence, and if any teacher or headmaster imposed a corporal punishment, which is prohibited by the Education Department guidelines, then alone the teachers or headmasters shall be prosecuted and not otherwise. Further, for every act of students in a school, the teacher or headmaster cannot be blamed, and whenever a case of suicide is found, the parents cannot blame the teachers and headmasters alone in the absence of any evidence. It was observed that general blaming or causing disreputation would affect the image of the school and cause prejudice to the interest of the other children studying in the same school. Therefore, it was held that the allegations, if any, are to be established beyond any pale of doubt through acceptable evidence

The Court observed that while causing disreputation to the school and the teachers, the parents must remember that they have duties and responsibilities towards their own children and their duties co-exist with the teachers.

The Court while examining the duties and responsibilities of the parents and the possibility of them driving their own children to commit suicide, referred to Article 15-A(k) of the Constitution, and observed that parents are natural guardian and teachers are the custodian of the children, while they are attending the school, and the physical and mental health of the children must be consistently monitored by the parents.

Further, the Court said that as both the school authorities and the police conducted elaborate enquiry and investigation and submitted their respective reports, holding that the headmaster is not responsible for the commission of suicide by the deceased boy. Thus, while dismissing the writ petitions, the Court held that the headmaster has been unnecessarily dragged and made to suffer without any valid reason.

[K. Kala v. The Secretary, Education Department, 2022 SCC OnLine Mad 5154, decided on 03-11-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioner: Advocate M. Sreela;

For Respondent: Special Government Pleader S. Mythreye Chandru;

Government Advocate P. Rajarajeswari;

Advocate G. Babu;

Government Advocate R.P. Murugan Raj.

*Apoorva Goel, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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