Justice at last for family of Sherwood boy who died due to school negligenceEight years after Nepali student Shaan Prajapati’s death, Nainital Chief Judicial Magistrate Court convicts Sherwood College principal Amandeep Sandhu and two others for the death.
After eight years, Shaan Prajapati’s mother, Neena Shrestha, has finally received justice for her son’s untimely death.
On Wednesday, the Nainital Chief Judicial Magistrate Court convicted Sherwood College principal Amandeep Sandhu, his sister Payal Paul, and hostel warden Ravi Kumar under section 304 A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code for the death of Prajapati on November 14, 2014.
The court awarded two years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000 each to the three accused.
Shrestha, who had been fighting for justice for her son, called the verdict ‘landmark.’
Prajapati, then 14, was a ninth-grader at Sherwood College in Nainital, one of the premier institutes in India.
The teenage boy died after the school authorities failed to provide timely medical assistance when he fell seriously ill, his mother said at a press conference held in Kathmandu in November 2014, demanding investigation into the case.
The autopsy report mentioned ‘septicaemia’, which is caused when certain bacteria get into the bloodstream, as the reason behind Prajapati’s death.
At the same press conference, Dr Rajesh Dhwaj GC, a relative of Prajapati’s, said although pneumonia and lung infection were said to be the causes of his death, they do not lead to death in such a short time, as was the case with Prajapati.
“The truth has prevailed and the long-awaited justice has been served. I am very grateful to the Indian judicial system because I was a single woman fighting for justice from another country,” Shrestha told the Post over the phone on Thursday from her residence in Dillibazar. “The legal process was very complicated and the principal was a powerful man.”
Shrestha added, “I have lost count of how many times I reached the Indian embassy and frequented Delhi to fight for justice. I even wrote to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maneka Gandhi, the then Minister of Women and Child Development. I did not lose hope though, and finally, it paid off but to what end because I have already lost my only son.”
The death of the teenager had garnered widespread criticism. A series of protests took place both in Nepal and in different states of India seeking justice for Prajapati and his family.
Shrestha underscored how public engagement and support helped her in her fight for justice for her son. She thanked social activist Ujjwal Bikram Thapa, a Sherwood alumnus himself, for helping her reach out to various Nepali political leaders such as the then Prime Minister Sushil Koirala from Nepali Congress in 2014. On January 19, 2018, she wrote to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba requesting him to intervene in the matter.
“I lost my only son, but I am happy that this case has set an example for posterity that justice is possible,” said Shrestha.
In her conversation with the Post, Shrestha also said she was immensely grateful for the support she received from the ‘Old Sherwoodian Society’ as well.
Sherwood College is known for its alumni that includes renowned personalities such as former Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army Sam Manekshaw, Indian military officer Somnath Sharma and actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Ram Kapoor, among others.
Since Prajapati’s death in 2014, his family has been asking the authorities to look into the matter stating that the school failed to inform them of his illness on time and for neglecting his health condition even when Prajapati brought it to the school’s notice.
“It was gross negligence by the school,” said Shrestha. “I hope this decision will also raise awareness among educational institutions about their role in a child’s wellbeing.”
The teenager was taken to the local Haldwani Hospital and then was rushed to the New Delhi-based Fortis Hospital where he breathed his last while receiving treatment in the intensive care unit. Shaan's family was informed about his illness only after he was admitted to the hospital.
Shrestha, who works at the World Bank’s Nepal office, says she will now focus her time working for orphans and will be a proponent of child’s rights inside school premises especially when it comes to their health.