"Does the judiciary not care about a little girl who has been through trauma," asked the distressed parent of a three-and-a-half-year old girl from Bengaluru.
The girl's parents, along with a group of other parents, had been battling against a Bengaluru play school, whose supervisor had allegedly sexually harassed their kids.
But, in a major setback for the parents, the Karnataka High Court ordered a stay on police investigation for five weeks.
The stay comes more than two months after the incident, where the minor was allegedly sexually assaulted by the supervisor of the playschool, Manjunath. The parents of the girl had filed an FIR with the HAL Police Station on February 17 against Manjunath and also few members of the schoolâ€™s management.
On February 22, seven more FIRs were filed against Manjunath and school officials.
Manjunath was arrested and booked under POCSO Act. The arrested included Kingston Dâ€™Souza, national academic head of the chain of pre-schools; Veena Ashok, director of the playschool franchise in Bellandur where the incident was reported; and Niti, a staff member.
On April 18, Veena Ashok had moved the Karnataka High Court, seeking a stay on the investigation into the case. The stay was granted on April 27.
Veena Ashok, the daughter of BJP MLC Lakshminarayan had vehemently denied all allegations.
In March 2017, her dad had questioned the ruling party on what mechanisms exist to protect playschools from false complaints filed against them by parents. He also suggested that competitors could be encouraging such actions to ruin a schoolâ€™s reputation.
For the parenta who have had to face many roadblocks from the time they decided to file the complaint, the stay has come as a huge disappointment.
â€śWe did not even know about the stay order until after it was issued. We heard about it through a friend. We did not even expect such a thing to happen,â€ť said one of the parents of the girl.
The police were nearly done with the investigation and were said to have filed the chargesheet against the prime accused Manjunath, Veena Ashok, Kingston Dâ€™souza and a senior official named Praveena, when the case hit this major road block.
â€śWe would have submitted the chargesheet by May 8. The stay order is for five weeks, after that, we will file an appeal with the Karnataka High Court to vacate the stay order and only then can we file the chargesheet or investigate the case further,â€ť said Hal Police Inspector, Sadiq Pasha.
The police were waiting for forensic evidence and a few digital evidence procured from the play school.
â€śThe stay order is only against investigating Veena Ashok. We will be free to file the chargesheet against the other accused in the case. The chargesheet is being scrutinised by the legal team. We will definitely get the stay vacated,â€ť an investigating officer said.
The parents of the child were shocked, angry and disappointed with the recent turn of events
â€śIt is not even in our hands anymore. The police have to get the stay vacated. Only then can the case proceed. When we had gone to file the complaint, the police had told us that they too had daughters and that the chargesheet would be filed as soon as possible. If the police were speaking even a grain of truth, they should be able to help us,â€ť the girlâ€™s parent said.
However, H S Chandramouli, Veena Ashokâ€™s advocate says that there is nothing left to investigate in the case since the person who has committed the crime is already behind bars.
â€śThe school principal is wrongfully accused. We are just a franchise; if they want to accuse someone, then they should accuse the original owner of the franchise. The petition was filed which stated that the allegations made in the complaint do not attract the labeled offences. They can file a chargesheet against the main accused and not the other three people who were accused. When the school got to know about the incident on February 17, we immediately filed a complaint but they registered it only on the next day. The supervisor has been dismissed from the school,â€ť Chandramouli said.
While the case might look hopeless at the moment, the parents of the girl are not ready to give up yet.
â€śVeena Ashok is the daughter of MLC Lakshminarayan (BJP). The judge who granted the stay has happily retired now. If you have money and power, anything is possible in this country. Even getting justice. What happened to a little girl does not matter anymore. I donâ€™t know what is the point of fighting this case. We hoped that justice would be served. Now I guess I should be happy that my daughter is safe. I have not yet lost hope,â€ť said the dejected parent.