Probe whether Ryan International School owners are vicariously liable for Pradyuman’s murder

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It is important that the Gurgaon Police take to task the owners of the Ryan International Schools, the Pintos, for any act of omission that led to the murder of seven-year-old Pradyuman Thakur. Too many lacunae have been exposed in the functioning of RIS, Bhondsi. The police have arrested two employees – Francis and Jayesh Thomas. One of them apparently looked after the North indian operations of the group while the other was an HR manager. It is important to ascertain how much financial and functional autonomy these two had in the operation of the Bhondsi and other schools. If the police find that these two employees were mere figureheads and the owners were stingy about releasing money for the upkeep of the school’s facilities the Pintos must be charged under stringent provisions of the Penal Code for causing death by negligence.

This is a fit case to apply the doctrine of vicarious liability.  Among those security failures highlighted by the media at RIS Bhondsi include an unfinished compound wall and non-functioning security cameras. For a person with mala fide intent, such institutional failures are an incentive for wrongdoing. RIS apparently runs over a 100 schools and makes tall claims about its professionalism. It is possible that many of its schools are in a similar condition. There is also a case for stringent action in the present case so that it serves as a warning to every other management to shape up or ship out. Managements that don’t plough profits earned through fees collected from students back into schools must be shown the door. The Bombay high court’s rejection of the ancticipatory bail filed by the Pintos does send a strong message. It is incumbent upon the Gurgaon Police to now ascertain how deep lies the accountability of the owners.

India is rife with stories of chauffeurs who own up for their bosses involved in driving accidents and benamis who act as a cover for those looking to disguise their investment in a property transaction. The Pradyuman Thakur case must not end that way. Already, two employees of the school have come forward to claim that police tortured them to extract a confession. It begs the question whether the suspect arrested for the murder was also nabbed in this manner. Such allegations have caused more distress to Pradyuman’s parents and the general public. At another level comes the hair-brained attempt by bar associations to prevent lawyers from representing the accused in the case. This only gives the police a free hand, denies a fair hearing to the accused and undermines public confidence in the justice system. To prevent such incidents from repeating, the CBSE must step in and force civilian authorities to scale up inspection mechanisms in schools affiliated to it.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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