The Supreme Court on Monday refused to interfere in the Madras High Court order directing a CBI probe into the death of a 17-year-old student Lavanya in Thanjavur. While declining the plea of the Tamil Nadu Government challenging the previous Madras HC order, the Supreme Court has requested the government not to make the case a ‘prestige issue’ and hand over all papers to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani appeared for the girl’s father.
#CBI probe into #Thanjavur girl suicide case will go on, directs the #Supreme Court as it asks the #TamilNadu Govt not to make it a prestige issue & hand over all papers to the #CBI. The agency needs to also probe the allegations of forced conversion. #LavanyaSuicide— Utkarsh Anand (@utkarsh_aanand) February 14, 2022
On Monday, The Supreme Court was hearing a plea by the Tamil Nadu Government defended by Advocates Mukul Rohatgi and P. Wilson. The SC Bench asked Rohatgi over which aspect of the HC ruling his party was concerned. The Bench asserted, “On the first aspect of the observations made against state police in Madras HC judgment, we will issue notice but not on the aspect of CBI probe in light of Lavanya’s death.”
Countering this, Rohatgi argued that there is a ‘so-called conversion’ issue that was projected in the case. Advocate P. Wilson on behalf of the state police said that no consent of the state has been kept in mind for the transfer of investigation to the CBI. The Bench arguing that a lot has happened in the case, asked the lawyers not to make it a ‘prestige issue’. Arguing that the government should be happy with the decision on CBI transfer, the Bench replied to Wilson’s request saying, “We are not interfering in the CBI transfer aspect. We have made ourselves satisfied of it”
The case so far
On January 31, 2022, The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court had ordered the transfer of the Lavanya suicide case to the CBI amidst allegations of forced conversion. This came after the victim’s father had filed a petition in the Madras High Court seeking a CBI probe into the matter, alleging that the investigation by state police was not going in the right direction.
The Tamil Nadu government which has been denying the conversion angle right from the start had filed an SLP with the apex court through the DGP challenging validity of the HC decision. The DGP had also challenged the remarks of the Madras High Court against the State Police for their inaction and lack of concerted effort in investigating the angle of conversion that allegedly led to Lavanya’s death by suicide.
On the then ongoing probe by the state police, the Madras HC had observed, “What led the child to suicide has to be investigated. Before the investigation officer, the dying declaration of the child is available. Their authenticity is undoubted. Without doing so, the District Superintendent of Police wanted to completely suppress the conversion angle. The foregoing circumstances cumulatively taken will definitely create an impression that the investigation is not proceeding on the right lines. Since a high-ranking Hon’ble Minister himself has taken a stand, investigation cannot continue with the State Police.”
Lavanya, a 12 standard student, had committed suicide on January 19. In her dying declaration, the young girl had stated that her missionary school had pressurised her to convert to Christianity and she had been subject to harassment for refusing to convert. The state government, media and police had tried to suppress the conversion angle in the case, and had ignored the dying declaration, prompting her family to approach the HC seeking a CBI inquiry.