From expulsion to court hearing: What happened after a Kerala Class XII boy hugged his classmate

The school authorities took screenshots of the boy's private photos with his friend form his Instagram account to buttress their allegation that he had violated the school's disciplinary code

A 16-year old boy in a Kerala school is bearing the consequences of hugging a friend for the last five months. He is at the fag end of his academic cycle, all set to appear for the Senior Secondary Board Exams like all other school kids of his age. He is a student of St Thomas Central School in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram and is preparing for Common Law Entrance examination. But his life took a dramatic turn this July, when he hugged a classmate at his school staircase and his teacher happened to “catch” the duo. The school authorities expelled him and his friend on grounds of  “indecent behaviour”, but not before the students had submitted a written apology, , and the boy’s father was summoned to the Secretary’s office.

The authorities, reportedly, used Instagram pictures posted by the teenager with the same girl to prove that the students broke the disciplinary code of the school. They took screenshots of the student’s instagram photos allegedly in “compromising position” to back their claims. In October the boy’s parents approached the state Child Rights Commission. The Commission passed an order giving the boy interim relief. The order allowed him to resume classes. To this, the next move of the  school was to file a Writ petition in the Kerala High Court. The  Court, has ruled in favour of the school, saying that the Rights Commission’s has no legal authority to intervene in the matter, while stating that there was no illegality in the actions taken by the school authorities. Here are some excerpts from the judgement of the High Court:

On the Instagram posts shared by the boy

I do not intend to make the photographs part of this proceedings, since it will tarnish the reputation of the 2nd respondent as well as the girl student. However, I find that various photographs were posted in the Instagram in various compromising positions and if it had the effect of publicity, the issue definitely hampers the reputation of the school. There can be no doubt that such incidents can disturb parents and the students of the school and even the public at large.

On the reaction of the teacher who saw the students hugging 

…the teacher who has witnessed the said incident, in which, it is stated that, she was shocked to see the incident and she has not experienced any such public display of affection. It is also evident that other students also witnessed the incident.

On the rights of the Principal 

The Principal of the school is the guardian of the school, who is vested with powers to take necessary action to maintain the discipline and morality in the school, which cannot be interfered or tinkered with by the 1st respondent (state Child Rights Commission). I have no doubt or hesitation to say that there was absolutely any illegality or unfairness on the part of the school authorities having proceeded, so as to maintain and sustain the standard and reputation of the school.  The authorities may also be at liberty to impose reasonable fine on the parents of the 2nd respondent, so as to make it as a deterrent to the students, and precaution to avoid similar incidents.

However, the judgement does take into account that the boy is only 16-year old and set to appear for his Board exams. It appeals to the school to “re-consider” their decision to expel him.

The Principal and teachers of the school, definitely have a larger and broader outlook to these aspects, and nothing standing in the way of the school authorities rising to the occasion and re-considering the issue, bearing in mind, the 2 nd respondent is a XII standard student and particularly, he is to face the Board examination during the month of March/April. He has also to appear in the model examinations that are to take place immediately.

You can read the full judgement here.

(Feature image is representational | Source: Indian Express)