The Madras High Court on Friday dismissed two public interest litigation petitions — one seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into all student deaths reported inside Indian Institute of Technology – Madras campus since 2006 and another for a CBI investigation specifically into the recent death of humanities student Fathima Latheef of Kerala.
Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and N. Seshasayee dismissed the PIL petition filed by National Students Union of India, a wing of the Congress party, seeking CBI probe specifically into Fathima’s death and a Bench of Justices Sathyanarayanan and R. Hemalatha rejected the other petition filed by Kerala based politcian Saleem Madavoor alias Muhammed Saleem.
Passing identical but separate orders, both the Division Benches held that CBI probe could be ordered only in rare and exceptional cases and especially if it was found that the investigation was prima facie found to be tainted. “As of now, no such materials has been placed before this court warranting transfer of investigation to the CBI,” the judges concluded.
“No doubt, the brilliant academic career of an young student came to an end under tragic circumstances and this court can also understand the feelings/sentiments of the parents of the deceased… (but) this court cannot issue a mandamus (for a CBI probe) on the basis of mere sympathy or sentiment,” the judgements read.
Nevertheless, taking into consideration the agony undergone by the parents of the deceased, the judges directed the Central Crime Branch (CCB) personnel attached to the Greater Chennai police to submit a status report before the High Court on January 22 on the progress made by them in the investigation. Further, making it clear that the High Court could not issue any direction to the CCB on the manner in which the investigation should be conducted, the judges pointed out that the judicial magistrate concerned could however monitor the investigation and even order further probe if the final report was not found to be satisfactory.
Since it was claimed before the court that as many as 16 students had committed suicide on IIT-M campus since 2006, the judges said, it was high time that the IIT management began providing psychiatric counselling to prevent loss of young lives. In fact, all educational institutions should provide such counselling, Justice Hemalatha insisted.
In one paragraph of their verdict, the judges also said: “The tragic demise of Fathima Lateef had generated controversies, agitations and dharnas and therefore, it is also suggested that the investigation of the case may be transferred to a specialised investigating agency, namely Central Bureau of Investigation.”