The Madras High Court on Friday (December 14) dismissed a petition moved by Loktantrik Janata Dal’s Kerala unit seeking a CBI probe into all 14 “suicides” reported at IIT-Madras since 2006.
This included the death of IIT-Madras student Fathima Latheef, who was found hanging from the ceiling fan in her hostel room on November 9.
Earlier, the High Court had suggested that the investigation into the student’s death might be transferred to the CBI, taking into consideration the row and the protests that followed in its wake.
The petitioner had alleged that there was religious discrimination and the girl student faced harassment at the hands of some professors.
Though she named a few professors in her cell phone, to date, there was no action taken either by the Dean of IIT-Madras or police authorities to arrest them, he contended.
From 2006, 14 students had committed suicide in the IIT campus, the petitioner claimed. They have faced discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, language, he alleged.
Dismissing the plea, the court said, “The statistics provided by the government would disclose that between February 2008 and November 2019, 16 students of IIT(M), hostellers had committed suicide, maybe on account of stress and other related facts and unable to perform to their full potential. ”
“It is high time that the administration of IIT shall make every endeavour to give periodical psychiatric counseling to the students,” a division bench of justices M Sathyanarayanan and R Hemalatha said.
It said faculty members are also under the obligation to motivate, encourage the students to perform better and permanent solution is to be found as expeditiously as possible so as to prevent the loss of young lives.
“It is also suggested that such psychiatric counseling should be part of the course in all educational institutions to prevent such incidents of suicide by way of instilling more confidence into the young mind,” the bench added.
It noted that the court cannot issue a direction on the basis of mere sympathy or sentiment.
“Taking into consideration the facts and circumstances as well as the agony being undergone by the parents of the deceased, the investigating agency concerned is directed to file their status report before this court as to the progress being made in the investigation by January 22,” it said.
Similarly, another division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee dismissed a separate plea moved by the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) seeking a CBI probe into Fathima Latheef’s death.
Fathima Latheef’s death
Initially, officials investigating the student’s death claimed that she had committed suicide since she scored “low marks” in her exams, but it was later revealed that she had been a class-topper. Her family suspected foul play and alleged that their daughter had faced harassment often.
Police officers also found a note on her cellphone mentioning a professor in her department and a few others as the “cause of her death”.
Student unions, as well as political parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), staged protests demanding justice for Fathima and a fair investigation into her death.