Over a decade after a devastating fire charred to death 94 school children, a court in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, on Wednesday convicted 10 persons and acquitted 11 others in the ghastly school fire tragedy in Kumbakonam.
Principal District and Sessions Judge Mohammed Ali pronounced the verdict in the packed court hall amid tight security as parents and relatives of the deceased children assembled outside the court.
Of the convicted, five persons were held guilty under various IPC sections including 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter), and provisions of Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulation) Act, 1973.
Those found guilty under these sections were Palanisamy, owner and founder of the School, his wife and correspondent Saraswathi, headmistress Santhalakshmi, noon meal organiser Vijayalakshmi and cook Vasanthi.
The quantum of sentence will be pronounced later in the day.
On the fateful day of July 16, 2004, the fire that broke out from the makeshift noon meal kitchen spread to a thatched roof hut in the first floor killing 94 children and causing burns to 18 others.
The heart wrenching incident that occurred in Sri Krishna Aided Private School, Saraswathi Nursery and Primary School and Sri Krishna Girls High School located on Kasiraman Street in a narrow building brought to fore the utter negligence of authorities over safety norms.
About 700 students were studying in these schools.
The police had charge-sheeted 21 persons under various Sections of IPC including 304 (Culpable Homicide not amounting murder) read with 120-B (conspiracy) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others).
The police in the 5,000 page charge-sheet, had also charged the accused under Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 46 and 47 of the Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulation) Act, 1973 and section 320 of the Tamil Nadu District Municipalities Act.
Of the total of 501 witnesses, 230 were examined during the trial, which included survivors (children) and parents of the deceased children.