New Delhi, Nov. 18: The Supreme Court today sought response from the CBI and the Odisha government on a plea for a probe by the agency into the brutal killing of 27-year-old schoolteacher Itishree Pradhan, a victim of alleged sexual harassment.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranajana Prakash Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the CBI, the chief secretary and home secretary of Odisha to file their replies within four weeks on a petition filed by a first-year law student Sudipta Lenka.
Lenka’s counsel Sanjeeb Panigrahi told the court that a CBI inquiry was essential as the state police was acting in a partisan manner because of the political connection of the accused.
Sub-inspector of schools Netrananda Dandasena allegedly sexually harassed Pipili resident Itishree Pradhan, a teacher at the Tikiri Upper Primary School in Rayagada district.
On July 18, Itishree had lodged a complaint against the accused with the local police, but no action was taken. Later, she approached the Rayagada collector, but her plea failed to elicit any action. To escape from Dandasena’s alleged sexual exploitation, Itishree had even sought transfer out of Tikiri.
She had written to the director general of police, chief minister Naveen Patnaik and the State Women Commission seeking action against Dandasena. Fearing threat to her life, Itishree had also sought adequate police protection.
Once again no action was taken against the accused and there was lot of pressure on her to withdraw her complaints. However, on October 27 she was set on fire in her room. She later died at a hospital in Vishakhapatnam on November 1.
In her dying declaration recorded with a magistrate, Itishree is believed to have named powerful politicians that include the local MP and others for her condition.
“It is widely believed that Dandasena’s proximity to the said MP and a minister resulted in his getting protection at a time when he ought to have been booked for the offence,” the PIL said.
There was a huge furore in the aftermath of Itishree’s death. Opposition parties blamed the state government for failing to protect women and demanded an impartial inquiry into the death of the teacher.
Responding to the situation, the state government had ordered a crime branch probe into the death.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik ordered for trial of the case in a fast-track court and announced an ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh for the victim’s family even as the school and mass education department drafted guidelines on sexual harassment on campuses.