Madras HC for panel to check sexual abuse in schools, Legal News, ET LegalWorld – Legal Firms


The Madras high court has directed the state government to constitute a nodal body with representatives from the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and school education department to coordinate government-led awareness programmes in schools on sexual abuse and monitor operationalisation of mobile counselling centres.

A division bench of justice R Mahadevan and justice J Sathya Narayana Prasad directed the government to ensure that internal complaints committees are constituted in schools as required under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

The judges further directed schools to frame anti-sexual harassment policy and distribute a copy to students and teachers. Schools should also have a reporting and redress mechanism in place and this should be made known to students.

The court passed the directions while disposing of a public interest litigation filed by A Veronica Mary, a resident of Madurai district, seeking a direction to ensure proper functioning of mobile counselling centres, to prevent sexual crimes against government, aided and private school students, based on a GO passed in 2012.

The judges observed, “The state has been taking various initiatives in realising the constitutional objectives, however, inaction on the part of the executive thwarts any endeavour in enforcing rights and implementing policies.”

Referring to the GO, the judges observed that it is an effective initiative to prevent sexual abuse of children in schools by making psychological counselling services accessible. It has been a decade since mobile counselling centres were introduced, but there is no substantial change, as evident from the information received through RTI by the petitioner.

It is important to mention here that the government recently, announced a helpline number ‘14417’ to be printed in all school textbooks and constituted a dedicated team to handle calls to help students make complaints relating to child abuse and sexual harassment. This move by the government is highly appreciable, observed the judges.

At the same time, this court cannot lose sight of the non-functioning of the mobile counselling centres, as it is important and necessary to protect the students in the schools against the sexual crimes at the threshold itself.


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