The Tamil Nadu government on Saturday cited orders from the Centre, to shift the probe in the death of IIT-Madras student Fathima Latheef to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). This comes 10 days after the father of the 19-year-old woman told the media that Union Minister Amit Shah had assured them that the CBI will investigate the case. Fathima, a first-year Humanities student at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, was found dead at her hostel on November 9.
According to the Times of India, the order transferring the case stated that the state government had decided to accept the proposal of the Director-General of Police (DGP) and the Commissioner of Police to transfer the case. The transfer was reportedly recommended by the top officers based on demands from various quarters. A notification in this regard was also issued, according consent for the CBI to take over the case.
Incidentally, it was only on Friday that the Madras High Court had dismissed a PIL, filed by the National Students Union of India, seeking CBI probe, due to lack of evidence. However, later, the HC also suggested that the investigation may be transferred to the CBI, taking into consideration the row and the protests that followed in its wake.
“Taking into consideration the facts and circumstances as well as the agony of the parents, 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.
The court made the suggestion while dismissing a plea moved by Loktantrik Janata Dal's Kerala unit seeking a CBI probe into all "14 suicides" reported at IIT-Madras since 2006. From 2006, 14 students had killed themselves on IIT campus, the petitioner claimed.
The petitioner had alleged that there was religious discrimination and the girl student faced harassment at the hands of some professors. Though she named some professors in her cell phone data, till date, no action was taken either by the IIT Dean or police authorities, to arrest them, he contended.
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 suicided, maybe on account of stress and other related facts and unable to perform to their full potential.”
‘Counselling should be part of course’
A division bench of justices M Sathyanarayanan and R Hemalatha said, “It is high time that the administration of IIT makes every endeavour to give periodical psychiatric counselling to the students."
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 loss of young lives.
"It is also suggested that such psychiatric counselling 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.
(With inputs from PTI)