Two top officials of the Ryan International School were arrested today and the acting principal detained for questioning following the gruesome murder of a seven-year-old student on campus, even as the victim’s father moved the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe. The police claimed that evidence from the scene of crime had been tampered with and said they would bring the guilty to book. Ryan International Group CEO Ryan Pinto and his parents, who are its founders, approached the Bombay High Court today to seek anticipatory bail in connection with the child’s murder in the chain’s Gurgaon school. SHO of Sadar Police Station on Sohna Road in Gurgaon was meanwhile suspended over a baton-charge on protesting parents, as well as journalists, outside the school premises.
Protests continued at other places with the parents of children studying in Ryan International School’s Noida and Greater Noida branches seeking an assurance regarding safety of their wards. Gurgaon police chief Sandeep Khirwar told PTI that the school’s Legal Head, Francis Thomas and HR Head, Jeyus Thomas were arrested on Sunday night following interrogation. “Acting principal Neerja Batra has been detained and is being questioned. She is likely to be arrested soon,” Khirwar said. Acting on the report of a three-member panel that had indicated lapses, the two top officials of the school management were arrested under section 75 of the Juvenile Justice act, police officials said. The two were produced before a Sohna court which remanded them to two days in police custody.
Khirwar said that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the case believed that evidence in the case was tampered with. “The SIT said in the court that destruction of evidence was found to have been done. Attempt was made to wash away the blood stains from the spot where the child was found murdered. The blood on his water bottle and bag was also found rubbed. Some other pieces of evidence were also tampered with,” Khirwar said.
We will add appropriate sections against the school management or other staff, whoever is found to be involved, at the time of submission of the charge sheet, Khirwar said. Schoolbus conductor Ashok Kumar, who allegedly tried to sexually assault the class II student in a toilet and slit his throat with a knife when he resisted on Friday last is already behind bars.
The Haryana police has formed fourteen teams to probe the case, which has triggered massive outrage, according to officials. A special investigation team will reach Mumbai to question school CEO Pinto and director Albert Pinto, they said. The father of the 7-year-old, however, approached the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe, which prompted the apex court to seek responses from the Centre and Haryana. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also sought a response from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on the plea, which has sought framing of guidelines to fix responsibility of school managements in case of such incidents and also regarding the safety and security of children. “This petition is not restricted only to the school concerned as it has a country-wide ramification,” the court said during the brief hearing.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, asked the governments and the CBSE to respond within three weeks.
Barun Chandra Thakur, the father of the student said in his plea filed through advocate Sushil Tekriwal, that free and fair investigation should be conducted by the CBI under the monitoring of the apex court in the matter. At the Bombay High Court, Ryan International Group’s founding chairman, Augustine Pinto (73), and his wife Grace Pinto (62), who is the managing director of the institution, along with their son Ryan Pinto sought anticipatory bail. Their counsel Niteen Pradhan mentioned the applications this morning before Justice Ajey Gadkari, who posted them for hearing tomorrow. The Pintos, in their pleas, said while the death of the boy was unfortunate, the management cannot be held culpable and that they themselves were victims of the unfortunate circumstances.
The death has caused deep pain not only to the parents and family of the child but also to the trustees, management, staff and students of the school, their applications said. “This is not only the darkest hour for the family but also for the institution. Such an incident has taken place for the first time in the past four decades since the institution was set up,” the three said in their bail pleas. Despite taking all necessary steps for security and well being of the students as required by law and prudence, if such an unfortunate incident occurs, the institution cannot be held culpable as it is itself a victim of unfortunate circumstances, they said. According to the pleas, the Pintos read newspaper reports which mentioned that there were demands for booking the management.
“Hence, we apprehend action against us in the matter. We seek the court to grant us transit protection from arrest so that we can approach the appropriate judicial authority in Haryana,” the pleas said. The petitioners said they were residents of Mumbai from where the overall management of the institution was carried out. The day-to-day management of each school is taken care of by the local staff appointed by the management, they said. While no outsider is allowed to enter school premises, bus drivers and conductors, who have been given identity cards, were allowed to use basic amenities like toilets on “humanitarian grounds”, they said in the petitions. Because of the CCTV placed in the corridor covering the entrance of the Gurgaon school washroom where the incident occurred, the culprit could be identified immediately and arrested, the pleas added.
Earlier, a fact-finding panel in its report had highlighted several deficiencies, including in the installation of CCTV cameras at the school, lack of separate toilets for drivers and conductors, unsafe toilets, a broken boundary wall, lack of ramps, expired fire extinguishers and lack of police verification of employees, officials said. The district administration has asked the school to ensure safety at its premises and gave it 15 days to reply to a show cause notice, they added. All Ryan group schools in Gurgaon have been ordered to remain shut today and tomorrow. As the outrage over the murder kept mounting, the SHO of Sadar Police Station was suspended in connection with a baton-charge on protesting parents and journalists outside the school.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had yesterday termed as “unfortunate” the baton charging in which some mediapersons covering the protest were also injured and ordered action against erring policemen. Hundreds of angry parents had staged a protest outside the school demanding a CBI probe into the murder of the 7- year-old. For applying baton charge on angry mob and journalists outside the school on Sunday morning, Gurgaon Police Commissioner has suspended SHO-Sadar Sohna for negligence,” ACP and Chief PRO of Gurgaon Police Manish Sehgal said.
Khattar said the government will bear the medical expenses of journalists who were injured in the police action. There were protests in Noida and Greater Noida as well where parents gathered outside Ryan International School branches and sought assurance on the safety of their children from the management.