The Kerala High Court has granted bail to a headmistress of a school who was arrested for forcibly cutting the hair of a student belonging to a Scheduled Tribe on the ground that the mens rea behind the commission of the act was doubtful.

The Bench of Justice K Babu observed that, "On an analysis of the facts placed before this Court, I am of the view that the mens rea of the appellant in the commission of the alleged acts is doubtful. At the most, it could be seen that the appellant being a school teacher having disciplinary control over the victim exceeded in the corporal punishment on the victim. Therefore, I am of the view that there is no prima facie material to attract the offences under the SC/ST (PoA) Act."

Counsel S Rajeev, along with others, appeared for the appellant, while Counsel PK Santhamma, along with others, appeared for the respondents.

The appellant, the Headmistress of a school in Kasaragod, faced a challenge in a Criminal Appeal under Section 14A of the SC/ST (PoA) Act, contesting the Sessions Court Kasaragod's order.

The victim was a 5th-standard student from a Scheduled Tribe who alleged that the appellant, belonging to the Christian community, had cut his hair with scissors during the school assembly, which led to mockery by classmates. The victim, not disclosing the incident immediately, later expressed reluctance to attend school. The Sessions Court denied anticipatory bail under the SC/ST (PoA) Act but found a prima facie case under Section 75 of the JJ Act.

The Court observed that the appellant placed material before the Court which created doubt regarding her mens rea in the commission of the offence.

It was further observed that, "The prosecution has no case that the appellant is absconding. There are no materials to show that the appellant attempted to influence the course of investigation or tamper with the evidence."

In light of the same, anticipatory bail was granted to the appellant.

Cause Title: Sherly Joseph vs State of Kerala & Ors.

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