The High Court has also asked that a forensic test be conducted to find the origin of the now viral video where Lavanya alleged that she was being forced to convert to Christianity.

Lavanya, the Thanjavur student who died by suicide
news Court Tuesday, January 25, 2022 - 09:26

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on Monday, January 24 asked the person who recorded the video of 17-year-old Lavanya, who died by suicide on January 19, to hand over his mobile phone. The man, identified as Muthuvel, has been asked to appear before the investigating officer and hand over his mobile phone. In the 44-second clip which went viral on social media after her death, Lavanya can be heard saying that two years ago, a woman called Raquel Mary had asked her to convert to Christianity, which she and her parents refused. 

Hearing the father’s plea seeking a CB-CID inquiry into the case, Justice GS Swaminathan was on Monday informed by the investigating officer that a man named Muthuvel had recorded the video. The court said that it is necessary to confirm whether the video contains the student's voice and directed Muthuvel who shot the video to appear before the investigating officer before 10 am on Tuesday, January 25. 

The investigating officer in the case also appeared before the court on Monday and informed the bench that 37 witnesses, including school staff, students and a nurse, are to be questioned in the case, and so far, 14 of them have been questioned. The investigating officer informed the court that the video of the girl is on YouTube and they need custody of the phone that recorded the video to find out its veracity and origin. 

The Madras HC then directed the investigating officer to send the mobile phone, along with the CD containing the video, to the Tamil Nadu Forensic Science Laboratory at Mylapore in Chennai. The court has directed the investigating officer to file a report by Thursday, January 27 on the authenticity of the video after the forensic test. The case will be heard further on January 28. 

Meanwhile, as per the court’s directions, the parents of the girl appeared before the magistrate and recorded their statement. The court has directed that their statement also be presented to the investigating officer. 

The High Court is hearing a plea by the student’s father seeking a CB-CID inquiry into his daughter’s death. The father had submitted to the court that the family is being pressurised by the police. 

Lavanya, a student of Sacred Hearts Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti in Thanjavur, died by suicide on January 19. Her dying statement that was recorded in writing by the police, and the FIR registered by the police, say that Lavanya was tortured by her hostel warden Sagaya Mary, exploited by the warden to do her personal work, which was the reason for her attempting suicide. Lavanya’s parents have, however, said that the mistreatment was because Lavanya had refused to convert to Christianity. A day after her death, a video surfaced on social media, in which Lavanya can be heard saying that she and her parents were asked to convert by Raquel Mary, a nun who works at the Sacred Hearts School.

Though Sagaya Mary, the warden named in the written dying declaration, was arrested soon after the teenager died, Raquel Mary, who is a nun at the same school, has not been detained yet. This is because there is no direct evidence yet linking her to Lavanya's death, the SP had earlier told TNM.

Earlier, Tamil Nadu School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi appealed to people not to politicise the teenager's death and that an inquiry is underway. The minister asserted that justice would be meted out to the parents of the student.

"The truth behind the death of the girl by suicide will be ascertained and those responsible will certainly be punished," he told reporters. The school education department has already sought an explanation from the missionary school where the girl studied and also commenced enquiries with students and former students on the allegation of forced conversion bid, the minister said.

If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.   

Tamil Nadu

State health department's suicide helpline: 104

Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)

Andhra Pradesh

Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930

Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584

Karnataka

Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222

Kerala

Maithri: 0484 2540530

Chaithram: 0484 2361161

Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.

Telangana

State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104

Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200

SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 amd and 7 pm)

Aasara offers support to inidviduals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those  undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.

24x7 Helpline: 9820466726 

Click here for working helplines across India.

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