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HindustanTimes Thu,27 Nov 2014

Bihar midday meal: principal charged with murder

Avinash Kumar, Hindustan Times  Chapra, October 21, 2013
First Published: 19:42 IST(21/10/2013) | Last Updated: 19:46 IST(21/10/2013)

A special investigation team (SIT) of the Bihar Police has filed a charge sheet against headmistress of a Saran school where 23 children died after eating contaminated midday meal.

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Meena Devi was the headmistress of Gandaman primary school under Masarakh police station of Saran, around 130 km north of Patna, where 23 students died after consuming midday meal laced with pesticides on July 16.

Devi’s husband Arjun Rai, accused of purchasing the pesticide with which the midday meal was contaminated, also figures in the 246-page charge sheet filed in the court of Saran’s chief judicial magistrate Anil Kumar Jha.

Filed 96 days after the incident by investigating officer Raj Kaushal, the charge sheet invokes Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 328 (poisoning) and 120b (conspiracy) of the IPC.

Saran superintendent of police Varun Kumar Sinha said investigations were underway to determine the complicity of another suspect in the case.

Soon after the incident, the police had made headmistress Meena Devi an accused in the case while her husband Arjun Rai was named a suspect.

Devi had surrendered at the Ribilganj police station in Saran on July 24 and was arrested. The charge sheet was filed just ahead of the expiry of the 90-day period since her arrest on Tuesday.

"Rai purchased the pesticide from a Gopalganj-based sugar factory on July 14 and kept it in the room where items for cooking the midday meal were stored. The pesticide got mixed in the meal," Kaushal stated.

Currently both the accused are lodged in jail. “Adequate evidence had been collected against them during the investigation,” he said.

“At least 64 witnesses, including FSL officials, police officers, doctors of PMCH, ADM (Saran), the cook and the informant in the case would be produced in the court during trial,” he added.

Rai surrendered before the court on September 9 after a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued against him and his anticipatory bail plea was dismissed by the court of district and session judge Navneet Kumar Pandey.

Meena Devi's bail application was also rejected by the Saran district and sessions court. She also had to undergo a polygraph test.

A forensic lab report had confirmed significant traces of a toxic insecticide in the cooking oil used for preparing food at the school. An eight-member special investigation team (SIT) had been formed to look into the tragedy.

Later, a report submitted to the government by Saran divisional commissioner SS Sharma and DIG Vinod Kumar had held the headmistress responsible for the tragedy.


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