The Bombay High Court has granted interim protection from arrest to a wrestling teacher who was accused of sexually assaulting and harassing 10 minor boys while teaching them the sport during the Covid-10 lockdown period.
Vacation bench of Justice Milind Sathaye, on November 13, granted protection to the teacher who teaches at an akhara in Pune. The teacher approached the HC after his pre-arrest bail plea was rejected by the sessions court in Pune on October 27.
The teacher was booked by the Vishrambaug police under Section 8 (Sexual assault) and Section 12 (Sexual harassment) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO). The FIR was registered on September 21 following a complaint lodged by the teacher’s co-worker, of the same akhara.
Student overhears Class 9-10 students talking about teacher's alleged misbehavior
According to the complaint, the teacher committed the said acts between June 2020 and September 2022. It claimed that that co-worker was informed by one of the students that he overheard a group of Class 9-10 students that the teacher allegedly misbehaved with them during a trip.
Advocates Akshay Deshmukh, appearing for the teacher, argued that nature of the sport of Kusti involves training with a specific type of clothing (loin cloth) and that training necessarily entails physical engagement among the students or with the teacher, usually in a place called an akhara filled with red clay. He contended that he was teaching the sport with the school’s permission.
FIR lodged due to complaint’s rivalry: Accused
The teacher claimed that the FIR was lodged against him due to the complaint’s rivalry as he rapidly progressed in the school.
His plea also contended that the Session Court “failed to differentiate between the good and bad touch” and that the Judge had not given any reasoning on that and plainly rejected the application. State advocate YY Dabake opposed the plea contending that considering the nature of the allegations in the FIR and the observations made by the Sessions Judge while rejecting his plea, the teacher should not be given any relief.
The sessions court, while rejecting the teacher’s plea, took note of the statements of the ten boys detailing their ordeal.
The high court, however, opined that protection could be granted to the teacher by imposing stringent conditions. The court has directed his release, in case of arrest, on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 50,000.
Justice Sathaye also issued notice to the complainant and kept the matter for hearing on November 29.