The Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) in Nainital has pronounced principal Amandeep Sandhu, infirmary in-charge sister Payal Paul and warden Ravi Kumar guilty of criminal negligence in the 2014 death of Class 9 student Shaan Prajapati.
The trio has been sentenced to two-year jail besides being imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 each. Taken into custody, the trio was later released on interim bail.
In November 2014, Shaan, a student from Nepal, had died of pneumonia and septicemia while on his way from a hospital in Haldwani to a higher centre in Noida, where he was declared brought dead.
Shaan’s mother Neena Shrestha alleged criminal negligence by the school authorities who failed to provide him with proper timely medical assistance. She said her son wasn’t taken to the hospital on November 13, as was claimed by the school. “When we saw him in the mortuary, he was still in uniform. How is this possible if he was admitted to the ICU? The hospital provides clothes,” she said.
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In her complaint, Shrestha also said she was first told about her son’s illness on November 13 around 10 am and the principal had called her, saying they would be taking him to Delhi for treatment. She told police that she agreed on the condition that he was transferred in an ambulance with complete medical facilities. But she alleged that no doctor was present and the number, which belonged to the ambulance’s driver, was given as the number of the doctor on board.
Later, a zero FIR under IPC Section 304 A (causing death by negligence) was registered against the school in Noida and the case was transferred to the relevant police station in Nainital.
Sandhu at that time had denied all allegations, saying: “The boy had been ill in the past. He had asthma. After he fell ill on November 11, he was treated at school. Later, we took him to a private hospital in Haldwani. The next day, when his vitals didn’t improve, we decided to take him to Noida.”
Talking to The Indian Express, advocate Harish C Pande, who represented the complainant in the case, confirmed that the trio had been convicted and sentence to two-year jail in the case.
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On November 9, 2014, Shaah had reported discomfort. According to the allegations, the school authorities admitted him only to the infirmary and did not even call a doctor. “When four days later his health deteriorated, they took him to a hospital in Haldwani. No responsible person accompanied the patient and only a fourth-class employee was sent to escort him. When the condition further deteriorated, they decided to shift him to a higher centre in Delhi. The boy, however, died on the way,” said Pande.
Talking to The Indian Express, Shrestha said: “This case will be remembered by all educational institutions in both India and Nepal. Child healthcare will not be neglected anymore in schools, especially boarding schools. Hopefully, parents now be will be informed and updated about the health of their children.”
On the legal front, she said it was hard for her to make countless trips to Delhi and Nainital from Nepal and make several rounds to the Indian Embassy. “I was a single woman who had just lost her only child. Every time I had to explain the same things to the authorities. But I also received a lot of help and support in India. I met Maneka Gandhi, then Minister of Women and Child Development, and then Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat who helped me a lot,” she added.
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