HC dismisses discharge pleas of 17 accused in school fire case

The Madras High Court has dismissed discharge petitions filed by 17 persons charge sheeted in connection with the July 2004 fire mishap in a school in Kumbakonam that claimed the lives of 94 children.

Justice A Arumughaswamy of the Madurai bench yesterday dismissed the discharge pleas holding that the accused needed to undergo the trial.

The petitioners, including founder of the Sri Krishna Aided Primary School Palanisamy and his wife and school correspondent (administrator) Saraswathi and three teachers, had moved the high court after their discharge pleas were rejected by Principal Sessions Judge in Thanjavur on July 30.

With the high court rejecting their pleas, all the 17 now have to face trial which had already commenced in the Thanjavur court. Statements of approvers had been recorded.

Six officers in the education department (elementary), the Kumbakonam Municipal Commissioner, town planning officer and four assistants in the education department are the others charge sheeted in the case.

The three teachers are facing charges of negligence in rescuing the children while most of the education department officials have been accused of negligence of duty. The lower level officials have been charged with conspiring to help the school founder in obtaining and renewing license periodically, apart from tipping him about surprise inspections.

The school functioned without an approved building plan since its inception, but the town planning officer of Kumbakonam Municipality never visited the school. The Municipal Commissioner forwarded quarterly reports with false statistics for receipt of government grant and at no point of time visited or supervised the school, according to the charge sheet.

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