A Chhapra court Monday sentenced the Gandaman primary school principal to total 17 years of imprisonment in connection with the 2013 midday meal tragedy in which 23 children had died after eating poisonous soyabean curry.
Additional District Judge II of the Saran court, Vijay Anand Tiwari, ruled that Mina Devi will serve 10 years in prison on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder (IPC Section 304) and another seven years for criminal negligence (IPC Section 308). It ruled that both sentences will run consecutively and not concurrently.
“The court treated it as rarest of rare case and decided to run sentences consecutively and not concurrently as done in most cases. The court has slapped a fine of Rs 2.5 lakh under Section 304 and Rs 1.25 under Section 308 on the convict,” Public Prosecutor Surendra Singh told reporters.
While Singh expressed satisfaction over the verdict, Mina Devi said she would challenge it in the high court.
Explaining the judgment, senior Patna HC lawyer Tuhin Shankar said: “Though, I have not seen Chhapra verdict, the severity of crime makes a court decide consecutive punishment.”
While convicting Mina Devi on August 24, the court had acquitted her on charges of murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy despite the Special Investigation Team claiming that there was a strong case against her. The court, meanwhile, had acquitted Mina Devi’s husband, Arjun Yadav alias Arjun Rai, of all charges.
The school principal, who used to store the midday meal grocery at her house, had allegedly kept mustard oil in a container that had some amount of pesticide in it. Devi’s husband, a sugarcane farmer, used to store pesticide at home for his sugarcane crop. On the day of the tragedy, the principal had ignored a warning by cooks and some students who had pointed out that the oil being used for cooking the soyabean curry was black in colour.