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The new ‘no news’ in Kerala: sexual abuse of minor orphan girl by teacher

By Najiya O, TwoCircles.net

Kerala: In a country where attacks on women and girls are nothing new, the alleged rape of a nine-year-old orphan girl by her teacher in the northern district of Kannur is the new ‘no-news’ in Kerala.

The girl studying in 4th standard was allegedly raped by her teacher Padmarajan, who also happened to be a local leader of the BJP. A case was registered when the girl’s family complained with the Child Line and local police, but it took one month and numerous protests for the police to arrest the offender, who was then sent to judicial custody. It was barely a day before the ending of the custody that the police submitted its charge sheet, and that too, a partial one without any charges of POCSO (Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act), which finally led to the granting of bail to the offender. And a few days back, while considering a petition filed by the girl’s mother questioning the bail the Kerala High Court ruled in favour of the Crime Branch which accused the girl of having a ‘fantasizing nature’.

What happened?

According to the First Information Report filed at the Panur police station, the girl studying at a school in Palathayi was raped more than once by the teacher Padmarajan between January 15 and February 2, 2020. A case was registered there on March 17 under sections of the Indian Penal Code and the POCSO Act. The girl’s family also approached the Child Line authorities.

The girl was then subjected to a medical examination and presented before the magistrate on March 18. She was reportedly interrogated by the police in uniform on March 19, 21 and 22 from her home, school and police station, as against POCSO rules.

The police did not arrest the offender who was a known person in the locality even after one week. Sreejith, CI of Panur who was in charge of the investigation, was transferred and Fayiz Ali brought in his place on March 26, reportedly due to accusations of police inaction. The next day, the girl was taken to IMHANS (Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences), an autonomous institution under the state government, in Calicut, which is more than 70 km away from Panur. She was taken there with family for ‘counseling’ as per the direction of the police who interrogated her in the presence of doctors.

It is said that CI Sreejith who was removed from the charge of the case and CI Fayiz Ali were present there. There have also been reports that the police asked her repeatedly whether it wasn’t her uncle or teacher at her madrassa who assaulted her. Finally, the police arrested Padmarajan on April 15, after severe criticism and protests arose from several quarters. However, the case was then transferred from the local police to the Crime Branch under the charge of Inspector General S Sreejith in late April.

The CB did not submit a chargesheet in the case till July 14, barely hours before the 90-day remand custody of the accused ended. And the chargesheet that it submitted was a partial one, dropping all charges of the POCSO and others dealing with sexual abuse while retaining charges of the Juvenile Justice Act and IPC only. Having only minor charges against him, the accused was granted bail by the Thalassery POCSO Court on July 17. On July 25, two women IPS officers were added to the special investigating team as per the direction of the Thalassery Additional Sessions Court. The Court had, on July 22, ordered further probe in the case after considering a petition of the prosecution which pointed towards lapses in the investigation.

Meanwhile, an audio clip of a phone call, purportedly of the Crime Branch IG Sreejith, explaining the details of the case including the statement of the girl before the magistrate and the name of one of the witnesses, surfaced on the social media within a few days of the submission of the partial chargesheet. The audio clip which advocated the dropping of the POCSO charges was widely used by those who supported the accused to malign the girl and question the nine-year-old girl’s intentions. The girl’s mother questioned the granting of bail in a petition filed at the Kerala High Court, stating that the Thalassery POCSO Court could not grant bail to the accused as POCSO was not charged against him. She also wrote to the Chief Minister demanding the removal of IG Sreejith from the investigation team. However, upholding the CB report that the girl had a fantasizing nature, the court refused to revoke the bail when the petition was considered on August 28. And the officer continues to head the investigation team.

Padmarajan (taken from livelaw.in)

Sexual assault and threat

Repeated assaults and the threat to kill her mother had made the minor girl so scared that she did not tell anybody about what had happened. The teacher allegedly raped her more than once and presented her before one other too, but the police investigation has not reportedly moved that way. The girl refused to go to school since the beginning of February giving some excuse of not being well. She finally informed her mother’s sister in mid-March about the real reason for her not going to school. As soon as they learned the reality, the family complained to the police and Child Line.

An action committee was formed locally with the cooperation of all political parties and organizations except the BJP to help the girl attain justice, informed Abdulla, the girl’s maternal uncle. The girl had not attended school since February but was reportedly given attendance for all those days in the register of the class. Abdulla said that the school authorities explained it was done so ‘to get the midday meal’. He also accused that the medical report which spoke of sexual abuse and the statement of the girl’s friend against the teacher were not presented before the court, as per reports.


When the incident was known outside and a case registered, protests and criticism arose immediately from different quarters. However, all that soon subsided, with only a very few organized protests online and offline.

The incident which took place in the Assembly Constituency of state Health Minister KK Shailaja, with clear evidence against a leader of the CPI(M)’s archenemy BJP, was surprisingly not reason enough for the party to rise in strong protest. When protests were going on for the arrest of the accused, the minister even said that she ‘had thought he was already arrested’, clearly stating the government’s negligence in the matter. The leaders of the party which had earlier spoken of ensuring justice to the victim later began to talk of ‘two versions which need to be studied’ in the matter of rape. However, the Muslim League, SDPI, PFI and Welfare Party along with their sister organizations are protesting for justice online and offline. There have also been a few protests like a common statement by popular figures in literature and socio-cultural fields.

‘standing protest of the Women Justice Movement’ taken from the organisation’s Facebook page

“This case can be seen as the example of how an explicit POCSO case can be overturned into a non-POCSO case,” said Jabeena Irshad, president of the Women Justice Movement, which has been in the forefront of protests demanding justice to the victim.

“Other POCSO cases like the Walayar case came into limelight when the accused were set free, but we saw the signs of jeopardizing this case from the beginning itself. And we have been in the field with protests since then. 17 new POCSO courts were established in the state in June. There are all facilities such as the Child Rights Commission, Women’s Commission etc, but there is no justice in the ground level. There are about 3000 POCSO cases yearly in the state, but only 20% of the culprits are getting punished. This is a serious matter,” she added.