Sexual assault case: School cleaner acquitted after four years in jail
A school cleaner who was charged with the sexual assault of a three-year-old and spent over four years behind bars was acquitted by a city court on Monday.
Manoj Kumar Manna, a Group D employee of the MP Birla Foundation Higher Secondary School, had been arrested in December 2017.
The court, which heard the depositions of 21 prosecution witnesses and four defence witnesses, announced the judgment on Monday.
“...That the accused person namely Manoj Kumar Manna is found not guilty for the offences punishable u/s 376(2)(i) of IPC & Sec. 4/6/8/10 of POCSO Act, 2012 and he is acquitted accordingly in terms of Section 235(1) of Criminal Procedure Code and he be set to liberty at once. The accused Manoj Kumar Manna be set to liberty at once,” read the order sheet issued by the additional sessions judge, second court, Alipore, Umesh Singh.
The girl’s parents had reported to the school and the police that the child had been sexually assaulted by a staff member, whom they could not name in the complaint.
Based on the complaint and the statement of the student, the police had zeroed in on Manna and arrested him under non-bailable sections of the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act. The police submitted a chargesheet against Manna and the trial began.
“My client had been working in the school for 28 years. He became a victim of circumstances. There was no evidence against him from either the 80 CCTV cameras that were in the school compound or any witness who saw Manoj with the child,” Manna’s defence lawyer, Sk Salim Rahman, said.
“His family was under tremendous duress. His elderly father, wife and school-going son were subjected to social stigma and rebuke all these years.”
Manna had been placed under suspension after his arrest in 2017. However, school officials said they had helped his family with medicines and money “on humanitarian grounds” as he had not been “proved guilty”.
“We honour the court’s decision and will discuss in our managing committee meeting whether we can reinstate him,” said S.K. Singh, general manager of the MP Birla Foundation Higher Secondary School.
The family expressed relief. “But nothing can make up for the humiliation that the family has undergone in the past four years,” a person close to the family said.
“His son would often return home crying after being taunted by his classmates about his father being a molester.”
Prosecution lawyer Madhabi Ghosh said her team had tried its best to get the accused punished.
“But the court found the evidence insufficient to prove him guilty. So he has been acquitted. We are yet to see a copy of the order. Once we get the order in hand, we shall decide whether to challenge it in a higher court,” Ghosh said.