Principal Helen Sircar in court on Friday. Picture by Amit Datta
A Barrackpore court on Friday denied bail to Helen Sircar, the principal of Christ Church Girls’ High School, after police argued that it was improbable she wouldn’t have known about Class V student Oindrilla Das’s confinement in a school washroom.
“When an incident like this happens to a little girl on the school premises, being the head of the institution a principal cannot shun her responsibilities,” the public prosecutor quoted magistrate Indranil Chatterjee as saying.
Sircar, 43, wiped a tear off her eye with the end of her sari as the magistrate read out the order, remanding her in police custody for three days.
The police have charged Sircar with wrongful confinement (Section 342 of the IPC), voluntarily causing hurt (Section 323), criminal intimidation (Section 506), extortion (Section 384) and common intent (Section 34).
Late on Thursday, the police added the charge of abetment to suicide (Section 306), for which a convicted person can be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
The police also added death due to rash or negligent act (Section 304A).
The magistrate questioned the basis for including abetment to suicide in the list of charges.
“It seems the police are a little confused while pressing charges,” the magistrate remarked while dismissing the abetment-to-suicide charge and allowing the charge of negligence to be brought at the Barrackpore additional chief judicial magistrate’s court.
Senior officers of the Barrackpore police commissionerate had failed to explain why abetment to suicide was added to the list of charges against Sircar when Oindrilla’s death was not a case of suicide. “It seems there was a mistake on the part of the investigating officer. However, we will recheck the charges and withdraw it while forwarding the chargesheet,” an officer said.
Sircar’s brother Susanta Sengupta said he was surprised at his sister being denied bail.
“We did not expect this order. We were under the impression that the police action was dictated by the mob and were certain that she would be released today. I don’t know what to tell her 11-year-old daughter… I had promised to bring her mother with me when I returned home in the evening,” he told Metro.
Sircar’s daughter has been staying at her uncle’s Park Circus residence since the vandalism at Christ Church Girls’ High School in Dum Dum.
The arrested principal did not utter a word as a policewoman asked her to sign the vakalatnama — an authorisation from client to counsel — before escorting her out of the courtroom. She put her head between her knees moments before the police vehicle carrying her sped away.
Sircar will spend the next three days in the Barrackpore police station lock-up.