A local court on Monday sentenced the former headmistress of a school in north Bihar to 17 years in prison for the deaths of 22 children and a staffer who died three years ago after consuming insecticide-laced mid-day meal.
Meena Devi was incharge of the one-room primary school run from a dilapidated community centre at Dharmsati Gandaman village in Saran district. She was convicted of sections pertaining to culpable homicide not amounting to murder on August 24.
“Both the jail terms will run separately. The second jail term will begin once the first term ends,” said public prosecutor Saran district and sessions court, Surendra Singh.
She was ordered to pay penalties totalling Rs 3.75 lakh, failing which her jail term will be increased by a year.
Devi’s husband, Arjun Yadav, was also accused in the case but was acquitted as no evidence was found against him.
As soon as the punishment was announced, Meena Devi broke down in the court. Meena’s father Sabha Rai said he would challenge the conviction in higher courts.
The mid-day meal consumed by the children and the cook on July 16, 2013 was later found to contain monocrotophos, a toxic compound banned in most countries.
Prosecutors said they were satisfied with Monday’s ruling but would challenge the court’s acquittal of her husband for lack of evidence.
“We were hoping both of them would be jailed but the court let her husband off,” Madav Ram, father of a 12-year child, who died, told AFP.
The disaster prompted the government to improve food safety in schools. Children often suffer food poisoning due to poor hygiene in kitchens and occasionally sub-standard food.
(With inputs from AFP)