Ruchika’s school claims inquiry ignored facts

By Alkesh Sharma, IANS,

Chandigarh : Faced with the threat of disaffiliation, the Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School claims a magisterial inquiry “willingly ignored” facts while indicting it for the expulsion of teenaged molestation victim Ruchika Girhotra, a charge denied by the Chandigarh administration.

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Following the school’s indictment, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), New Delhi, had issued a notice to the school, located in Sector 26, in February asking it to explain why it should not be disaffiliated.

In a reply submitted to the CBSE, the school authorities have denied the findings of the report and said it ignored many concrete facts that were presented before the inquiry officer.

“We recently submitted our reply to the CBSE in which we have strongly denied and opposed the contents of the inquiry report that was made by Sub-Divisional Magistrate Prerna Puri. So far we have not got any communication from the CBSE on our reply,” Father Thomas Anchanikal, vicar-general and spokesperson for the Chandigarh-Shimla diocese, told IANS.

The leading all-girls school is governed by the Chandigarh-Shimla diocese.

Anchanikal said the school has mentioned in its reply that the inquiry officer had not compiled the report “responsibly” and “willingly ignored” various facts that were presented before her.

The administration insists the inquiry was fair.

Home-cum-education secretary Ram Niwas told IANS: “We are fully satisfied with the inquiry in which the school authorities were found guilty. The inquiry officer had worked in the most fair and transparent manner and looked into all aspects of this case.”

The inquiry accused the school’s principal, Sister Sebestina, of being unfair in expelling 15-year-old Ruchika for fee default in September 1990, a month after she was molested by former Haryana police chief S.P.S. Rathore. Ruchika committed suicide three years later.

The school was held guilty of expelling Ruchika on frivolous grounds by the inquiry report submitted in January. Rathore himself has been convicted by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court and has challenged the conviction.

Anchanikal said: “No child, in the history of our school, has been expelled. There are cases when students are unable to pay fees but no child has been expelled from here till date. Even when Puri questioned me, I, in fact, requested her not to use the word expel as it was against the school’s principles.”

“Even Prerna Puri had admitted that there was no evidence indicating the expulsion of Ruchika. But she still used this harsh word in her report,” he pointed out.

Anchanikal also alleged that the Chandigarh administration has victimised not only the Sacred Heart School but has in the last few months also targeted other schools run by minority organisations like St John’s High School and Carmel Convent School.

A senior member of the Chandigarh-Shimla diocese, requesting anonymity, alleged: “The Chandigarh administration is specifically targeting schools that are being run by Christian organisations because of vested interests.

“Normally, we do not entertain their requests for admissions and do not favour them. So, this humiliation could be an aftermath of that,” the senior member told IANS.

On the basis of the report, the Chandigarh administration had withdrawn the state award given in 2005 to principal Sebestina, who held the position in 1990 also.

In a different case a few months ago, the Chandigarh administration, in its report, accused Michaelangelo Francis, a teacher at St John’s High School here, of showing pornographic websites to students.

However, after an inquiry conducted by retired Justice S.S. Sodhi, the school was given a clean chit last month.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])