TN Student Death: SC Refuses Stay on Madras HC Order for Repeat Autopsy

The victim's father, who had initially sought the repeat autopsy from the Madras high court, moved the Supreme Court to stay that order because his request for a doctor of his choice to be present had been denied.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday, July 19, refused a plea by the father of a class 12 student of a school in Chinnasalem in Tamil Nadu’s Kallakurichi who died last week, seeking a stay on the repeat autopsy ordered by the Madras high court.

The Madras high court’s decision to order a repeat autopsy had been passed in a plea by the victim’s father himself, however, he had also sought for a doctor of the family’s choice to be present during the autopsy, which the court had denied.

Following this, the girl’s father appealed the court’s decision at various levels and sought a stay on the order for a repeat autopsy until the matter was heard again.

The post-mortem is set to take place today (July 19) and the Supreme Court has said that it will hear the plea tomorrow, according to a report by NDTV.

Family questions ‘suicide’ narrative; widespread protests

The deceased, a class 12 student of the Kaniyamoor Sakthi Matriculation School in Tamil Nadu’s Chinnasalem, was found dead on campus on July 13. While the school claimed that the student died by suicide and the authorities suspected the same, the family refuted the claims.

On the basis of a note allegedly recovered from the student’s room alleging “torture” by two teachers; the initial post-mortem report indicating injuries sustained before her death; and claims by the victim’s mother that she found a bloody hand print near the verandah of her room, the family alleged foul play and sought for action to be taken.

Following her death, the Chinnasalem area saw widespread protests where the family members were joined by youths and members of left political outfits who posted messages on social media seeking solidarity and participation in the protests.

On Sunday, July 17, the protests turned violent with reports of stone-pelting from both the protestors and the police, buses (including a police bus) being overturned and set ablaze, disruptions in traffic in the area, and even injuries to police personnel. 

According to a report by the Hindustan Times, the police claimed that around 2,000 people participated in the violent protests and alleged damage to school property, including the burning of the transfer certificates of 4,500 students of the school. The police further alleged that 52 police personnel were injured in the melee, including Kallakurichi superintendent of police S. Selvakumar and deputy inspector general of police, M. Pandian.

Director general of police C. Sylendra Babu had said Sunday that the case had been transferred to the Crime Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID).

Kallakurichi district authorities imposed a curfew under Section 144 on Sunday.

Police personnel in large numbers sought to control the protesters on Sunday, July 17. Photo: PTI.

Madras high court order

The Madras high court heard the victim’s father’s plea seeking a repeat post-mortem on Monday, July 18. While the same was ordered, the father’s request for a doctor of the family’s choice to be present, was denied.

The court ordered for a team of three doctors, selected by the court, to conduct the post-mortem; for the entire process to be videographed; and allowed the father as well as his legal counsel to present for the same. 

The court also came down heavily on the protestors for their violence. “It was total chaos. It was as if there was total lawlessness,” the Hindustan Times quoted the court as saying. It further directed the police to identify all rioters and take “stern action” against them.

It also criticised the impact of social media in mobilising the protestors and fomenting the violence, observing that a parallel trial took place online. Remarking that it watched the riots unfold on television, the court said that it was of the firm opinion that the violence was not the result of sudden provocation.

“…rather, it appears to be motivated, planned and calculated. There is some force behind it, such an incident shook the entire State and the situation also led to show as if the State is lawless,” the court remarked. It also directed the DGP to round up the Youtubers responsible for fomenting the violence.

Finally, the court ordered the constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) to identify the rioters and bring them to book.

Appeals on the order

After the Madras high court passed the order, the victim’s father moved a division bench of the court with the plea to have a doctor of the family’s choice included in the team that would conduct the second autopsy.

However, the bench told him that appealing a criminal matter was not within their jurisdiction and that the appellant would have to move the Supreme Court for the same.

Thereafter, the father again approached the bench of the Madras high court which passed the order (led by Justice N. Sathish Kumar) seeking a stay on the order so as to allow him to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

Telling the petitioner that he should have faith in the experts selected by the court, his plea was dismissed.

Appeal in the Supreme Court 

On Tuesday, July 19, the day the repeat autopsy was slated to take place, the victim’s father’s counsel sought a stay order from the top court.

The state is witnessing a lot of violence. Post-mortem is to begin today. Please order a stay on it. A doctor of our choice should be included in the team,” NDTV quoted him as saying.

However, Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana said, “”The high court is already seized of the matter. Do you not trust the high court?”. He then proceeded to dismiss the plea.