The Madurai District Court on Tuesday, 19 September, sentenced a former government school headmaster to undergo 55 years of imprisonment “consecutively” and pay a fine of Rs 12,32,500 in a case of sexual abuse of 22 girl students, six years ago, said a report by The Hindu. Five of these girls belonged to the Scheduled Caste category.
P. Shanmugasundaram, Third Additional District Judge (PCR) sentenced the suspended Pothumbu Government High School Headmaster M. Arokiasamy, 62 to undergo imprisonment of varying terms on different counts. He was charged under Section 354 (outraging the modesty of women) and Section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC and various Sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998.
The school headmaster is accused of sexually assaulting about 90 girls in the sensational Pothumbu case. The court has sentenced him in six cases awarding a total of 120 years of imprisonment. As he was being led out of the Third Additional Sessions Court, Madurai, after being awarded the jail sentence, the onlookers threw eggs and slippers at him.
Term of imprisonment
According to a report by Deccan Chronicle, the fines which have been imposed on him will be paid as compensation to 22 of his student victims. The court also acquitted three other teachers accused in this case. The headmaster has been awarded 25 years of prison time under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act; 30 years under Section 354 of Indian Penal Code and another five years under Section (1) (12) SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and he was directed undergo the imprisonments consequently.
The court has also awarded 60 years imprisonment under Tamil Nadu Women Harassment Act and five years under 32 (7) of IPC. The guilty school headmaster was directed to undergo this imprisonment concurrently.
The sexual assault on 90 girl students at Pothumbu near Madurai was brought to light by the All India Democratic Women’s Association. Based on the complaint filed by Sk Ponnuthai, state secretary of AIDWA and the parent of five girls, the Koodal Paddur Police Station registered a case against the headmaster on 31 August 2011. Even as he was kept on suspension by the court, Ponnuthai had filed a case in the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court seeking to expedite the investigation. They also plead the court to pay compensation to the victims.
A report by The Times of India said it was Panju whose child was one of the headmaster’s victims who mustered courage and set in motion the process that culminated in the offender being sent to jail. “Unfortunately, she is not alive to savour the victory after the verdict was announced,” said public prosecutor P. Parimaladevi.
The case had to be taken to the Madras High Court several times during the trial period. First, the high court was approached to a special court for cases under SCST Act from the regular Mahila Court in Madurai.
As directed by the High Court in 2016, the case was heard in-camera in the Third Additional Sessions Court (PCR) in a separate room. 51 girls and 14 boys of the school were heard during the trial.
The Logical Indian community applauds the efforts taken up by the parents in the infamous Pothumbu incident. We hope, more parents come out and raise their voices against such criminal offences.