Vishakhapatnam college student ends her life: Alleges sexual harassment in suicide note

  • Posted on April 18, 2024
Sexual Harassment in Vishakhapatnam

By Vikrant Rana, Anuradha Gandhi and Isha Sharma


In Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, a shocking incident unfolded on the intervening night of March 28 and 29, 2024[1].

A 17 year old student, in the first year of diploma at Engineering College, tragically ended her life by jumping from the college building. In a text message to her family, the young girl alleged sexual harassment by the college faculty members as being the reason behind her sorrowful action. She further revealed that she was not the only one facing such abuse, but was one of the many female students that were experiencing similar issues.

As per the reports, in her last message to her sister, the young girl underlined the reason for her extreme decision stating that she didn’t see the point in reporting the harassment since the harasser was one among the faculty members.

“In fact, the reason behind my decision to end my life is sexual harassment. You may ask why I didn’t complain to the faculty, but what is the point when the harasser is one among them and is encouraging others too… They have taken my photos and are threatening to post them on social media. There are other girls as well just like me who cannot tell anyone. If I approach the police or college authorities, they will upload my photos on  social media. I don’t have any other option now. Only if someone speaks up this issue will be revealed to the world.. I am sorry I could not become a good daughter,” she wrote in the messages as per the police[2]

The student’s note detailed how the faculty members blackmailed her and threatened to malign her reputation by sharing compromising photos and videos of her on social media, if she tried to seek help from the police. In the night of March 28, the college hostel staff alerted the student’s parents, when she went missing around 9pm and was then rushed to the hospital.

The victim’s brother shared her message and expressed her desire for justice of all the students who suffered similar abuse. Her father, demanded punishment for those responsible and held the college management liable for such gross negligence.

The incident sparked protests among college students seeking justice for the victim. Both the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) and the Department of Technical Education have initiated inquiries into the matter. The Commissioner for Technical Education, ordered a thorough investigation into the incident and requested a comprehensive report.

Further, a police official confirmed that a case had been registered under POCSO and anti-ragging laws and an investigation was ongoing.[3] Additionally, the police have seized the deceased’s mobile phone and are reviewing her call data records. The WhatsApp messages sent by the young girl to her sister are being treated as a suicide note and are being analyzed.[4]

NHRC takes suo moto cognizance

In a press release by the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC on April 2, 2024, said that NHRC, India has taken suo moto cognizance of a media report, “that unable to bear the sexual harassment by a faculty member, a first-year Diploma student committed suicide by jumping down from the 4th floor of Chaitanya Engineering College in Kommadi area, Visakhapatnam District, Andhra Pradesh on 28th March, 2024.”

It further noted that, “Reportedly, in a message to her father on his mobile phone, she said that sexual harassment of girl students is common in the college and the management was not able to stop it.”

The Commission has also issued notices to the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police, Government of Andhra Pradesh calling for a detailed report within four weeks, which should include the status of the investigation. It also said in a clear statement that the “negligent and reckless attitude” of the institution had led to this incident, and this as well as the sexual harassment allegations of other students need to be investigated thoroughly, so that the perpetrators are brought to justice and such incidents threatening the right to life and dignity are stopped from recurring.[5]

In a media report dated April 3, 2024, it said that the Andhra Pradesh Police arrested five people in Visakhapatnam on Tuesday, April 2 in the matter of the death of the 17-year-old student[6].

Legal Analysis

It is pertinent to note that though the case was one of sexual harassment in the workplace, POCSO or Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 was applied and not Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (also known as POSH). The reason for the same are twofold. First, the victim, 17 years of age, was a minor, and therefore fell under the ambit of POCSO. The second reason is that punishment for sexual harassment under POCSO is much more severe and definite than in POSH.

The Act provides for three years of imprisonment and fine for sexual harassment, five to seven years for sexual assault, and, five to seven years for child pornography. In this case both sexual harassment and child pornography will be applicable as the allegation apart from sexual harassment, mentioned the use of explicit images of the victim to threaten and blackmail her into silence.

POCSO, unlike POSH is also a gender neutral law, i.e., the victim or the perpetrator’s gender is immaterial to the offence so committed, making its ambit in this case, wider and more pervasive.[7]

POCSO and POSH cases in educational institutions are unfortunately far too prevalent. In a data presented by furnished by CM Pinarayi Vijayan in the assembly on March 9, 2023, over 150 grave offences had been recorded against government employees in the past two years of which 73% were related to rape, sexual harassment and cases under POCSO Act. Among the cases registered under the POCSO Act, 75% had school teachers and staff as the primary accused.[8]

Another case that is immediately brought to mind on the mere perusal of the present case is the Tezpur University and Ors. Vs C.S.H.N. Murthy case that was decided by the High Court of Gauhati on June 24, 2016. In this case, a student of Mass Communication and Journalism filed a complaint against the Head of the Department, Mr. C.S.H.N. Murthy. The complaint opened a floodgate and soon three other students made similar complaints against the respondent via email. This case is widely treated as an example of Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment in Indian POSH jurisprudence.[9]

Sexual Harassment in Educational Institutions:

Sexual harassment in educational institutions has been a growing concern, with an alarming rise in cases being reported daily. In January 2024, a major incident occurred when a group of 500 female students from a University in Haryana came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against a professor. This significant development had sparked outrage and called for action within the university community and beyond. [10]

These cases adds to the mounting evidence of a widespread problem that needs urgent attention from educational institutions to implement stringent measures and proactive policies to prevent and address sexual harassment issues.


The tragic death of this young student has highlighted grave concerns regarding the safety and well-being of students in educational institutions. The ongoing investigations are crucial to uncovering the full circumstances surrounding the case and ensuring accountability. These inquiries shall also serve as a wake-up call for educational institutions to strengthen policies and measures that protect students from harassment. The community as a whole awaits answers and hopes for justice for the young girl and her family.

Ahana Bag, Assessment Intern at S.S. Rana & Co. has assisted in the research of this Article.