Explain deaths in tribal school: HC

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Friday ordered the secretary of the tribal development department to be present in court - in person - to explain the deaths of five tribal children in a state-run ashram school in Dahanu.

A division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud upbraided the state and asked the secretary to visit government-run residential schools in Thane and submit a report by February 27.

The court also asked the chief judicial magistrate of Thane to visit the said `ashram' schools. The court's direction came on a PIL that referred to newspaper reports on the deaths of the school children.

In an affidavit, the state claimed that the children had died due to reasons beyond the control of the ashram school administration. The government had paid a compensation of Rs 15,000 to the families of the children.

With regard to the allegations of rape levelled by a female student against the ashram school superintendent Vinod Shirsath, the government, much to the court's consternation, claimed it was the case of a "love affair'' between the two. Assistant government pleader Pradip Patil told the court that an inquiry has been initiated against one of the head masters and two superintendents. The court asked the additional solicitor general to ensure that the central government conducts an enquiry into the safety of food supplies given to the tribal students.