New Delhi, March 10: A Supreme Court bench headed by a judge who had said the corrupt should be hanged from lamp posts has absolved a teacher who had sex with a pupil on the technical point that the act took place outside the school.
Omkar Prasad Verma, a government school teacher in Madhya Pradesh, had sexual intercourse with an 18-year-old Class VII student with her consent.
The trial court and the state high court had found him guilty of obtaining consent by taking “undue advantage’’ of his official position, and sentenced him to two years in jail.
But an apex court bench headed by Justice S.B. Sinha set the conviction aside on Thursday. It ruled that technically, the student was not in the teacher’s custody during the act as it “did not take place within the precincts of the school but outside”.
It also observed that mere custody wasn’t enough — the prosecution must also prove that consent had been obtained by some “inducement or seduction’’.
The ruling applies to all school and college teachers who have sex with an adult and consenting student outside the campus.
“If a student and a teacher fall in love with each other, (it) would not mean that the teacher has taken undue advantage of his official position,’’ the court said.
On Wednesday, hearing the bail plea of a graft-tainted official, a bench of Justices Sinha and Markandeya Katju had said, “We would prefer to hang people like you from the lamp post.”
The schoolteacher, Verma, had been convicted under Section 376B of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with a public servant sexually exploiting a woman in his custody when the act does not amount to rape. It prescribes up to five years in jail.
The student, claiming to be 13, had alleged Verma had threatened to fail her and had made her pregnant. But the defence established she was over 18 and had consented to sex.
The trial court and high court absolved the teacher of rape but found him guilty under Section 376B.
The general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women, Annie Raja, described the judgment as anti-women and patriarchal. Most judgments relating to women’s rights in the past two years had gone against women, she alleged.