Mid-day meal deaths: Principal sent to judicial custody

Indo Asian News Service

Patna, Aug 2 (IANS) The principal of a Bihar school, where 23 children died last month after eating contaminated food, was sent to judicial custody Friday after she underwent a lie detector test, police said.

Meena Devi, principal of the government primary school at Gandaman village in Saran district, was sent to judicial custody till Aug 5 by a district court, Saran Superintendent of Police Sujit Kumar said. She is named as an accused in the case.

Meena Devi was taken on police remand Wednesday. The lie detector test or polygraph test was conducted on the principal by a team of the Patna-based Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) and New Delhi-based Central Forensic Science Laboratory.

The police officer said the test report is likely to be ready by next week.

The special investigating team probing the case had last month filed a petition before Chief Judicial Magistrate A.K. Jha asking for four days of police remand of the accused to conduct the polygraph test on her.

She has claimed innocence and denied her involvement in the tragedy.

A first information report has been registered against her on charges of murder and criminal conspiracy, police said.

Meena Devi has been suspended from service for gross negligence. She had been on the run since the day of the incident July 16 and was arrested July 24.

Police raided her house twice and recovered a bottle of pesticide whose traces were suspected to be present in the school food.

According to district officials, Meena Devi had forced the cook to use an allegedly contaminated cooking oil despite the latter's complaint that it had a pungent smell.

A forensic lab report confirmed presence of toxic insecticide traces in the cooking oil used for making food at the school, police said.

The poisonous substance, organophosphorus, in oil samples collected from school was more than five times the commercial preparation available in market, police added.