Gurugram: On a day when two top officials of Ryan International School were arrested in connection with the murder of a seven-year-old boy in the campus, the bus driver, who was with the accused conductor minutes before the crime was committed, has punctured holes in the police and school management’s story.
Speaking exclusively to CNN-News18, the driver, Saurabh, said he was pressured by the police and the Ryan school management to stick to their version of events. They have claimed that the conductor managed to bring the murder weapon, the knife, into the school premises undetected because it was part of the tool kit.
The driver, however, said that the knife was not part of the tool kit and police threatened to make him admit it was. “I keep opening the tool box and had inspected it on that day as well. The knife was not there,” he said.
When asked if the accused could have kept the knife hidden from him, Saurabh said that while possible, it was hard to believe. “He is of a very quiet nature. I’ve never seen him bring a knife. Once he got a screwdriver and informed me that I have got this as it'll be useful in the bus. Maybe he did not tell me about the knife and perhaps he kept it somewhere else... I don’t really know,” he said.
With the pressure to act against the school management growing and an SIT revealing serious lapses, Gurugram police on Monday arrested the school’s legal head, Francis Thomas and HR head, Jeyus Thomas. They have been sent to two-day police custody.
Police commissioner Sandeep Khirwar said acting Principal Neerja Batra has also been detained for questioning and her arrest is likely soon. Anticipating they would be the next in line to face the music, Ryan International Group CEO Ryan Pinto and his parents, who are the founders, approached the Bombay High Court to seek anticipatory bail.
SHO of Sadar Police Station in Gurugram was suspended over a baton-charge on protesting parents, as well as journalists, outside the school premises. Protests have continued at other places, with parents of children studying in the school’s Noida and Greater Noida branches seeking assurances regarding safety of their wards.
Police said the two officials of the school management were arrested under section 75 of the Juvenile Justice act. School bus 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 have 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 seven-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 AM Khanwilkar and DY 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.
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.