Student suicide: La Martiniere principal, 3 teachers held; get bail

KOLKATA: Seven months after 13-year-old student Rouvanjit Rawla committed suicide following his caning, La Martiniere for Boys school principal and three teachers were arrested on Monday morning and later granted bail by a court here. 

Principal Sunirmal Chakravarti and three teachers – Garnian, Partho Dutta and David Raun – were arrested in connection with the suicide of class VIII student Rawla on February 12, four days after being caned by the principal, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Damayanti Sen said. 

The four arrested were produced before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's court and were charged with IPC 323 and 324 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 352 (punishment without grave provocation) and 23 of the Juvenile Justice (negligence of duty) Act. 

Judge Ravi Ranjan Chakraborty granted them bail against a personal bond of Rs 500. 

Speaking to reporters, lawyer Amiya Chakraborty, who stood for the teachers, said that police had initially started the case under IPC 305 (abetment to suicide of child or an insane), but later during investigation changed to IPC 323 and 324 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 352 (punishment without grave provocation) and 23 of the Juvenile Justice (negligence of duty) Act. 

"These are all bailable sections and so they were granted bail," Chakraborty said. 

Following his death, Rouvanjit's father Ajay had filed a complaint against the school's principal and teachers for subjecting his son to corporal punishment. 

Describing the arrest as a 'breakthrough', Ajay said the accused should be so dealt with that other children would not have to suffer such ill treatment in future. 

"All we are praying for is that those who tormented our child and treated him so badly should be dealt with as per law and…an example must be set before teachers not to treat students in this way." 

He said he was very grateful to god and the authorities for not "letting the crime be swept under the carpet". 

National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), an autonomous body under the Central government, had conducted an inquiry in June that found the school and the teachers guilty and had recommended suspension of the accused. 

NCPR Member Ashok Agarwal said, "There was a clear linkage between the caning of the child and the suicide committed by him. Therefore, this (the arrest) should have happened much earlier. It is better late than never." 

Principal Chakravarti had earlier apologised for the caning, saying it was a mistake, though he emphasised that the caning should not be linked to the death of the student. 

"It was stretching things a bit too far," Chakravarti had said. 

He said the boy had been given only two 'mild strokes' and that he had earlier been hauled up for bursting stink bombs in the classroom and was issued a note asking him to bring his father to school. 

Asked about the arrests, Michael Shane Calvert, vice president of the La Martiniere Alumni Association said, "It is a very sad day for Martiniere. We do appreciate that life is precious but linking the caning to the suicide will have to be looked into carefully. 

"We still need to be careful about the impact that this is having and will have on the way students reacted to the disciplining because already there have been adverse reactions in the school and disciplining will be a problem. We need to look at ways of disciplining children through constructive measures," he said.