The Madras High Court today suspended the conviction and sentence of seven persons in the 2004 Kumbakonam fire tragedy that killed 94 school children and modified the sentence awarded to two others. The division bench, comprising Justices M Sathyanarayanan and V M Velumani also abated the sentence and conviction in the case of the wife of the school founder, who had passed away. It reserved its orders on appeals by the accused, as well as that by the state against the acquittals, passed by a lower court in Madurai. A total of 21 accused had been charged under various sections of IPC in the incident. On July 30, 2014, the trial court had acquitted 11 of them and convicted and sentenced the other 10, including Pulavar Palanisamy, founder of Sri Krishna Matriculation School, to life imprisonment and his wife Saraswathi to five years. As Sarawathi passed away during the period of appeal, the bench abated the charges against her. The Bench which passed orders on the appeals set aside the conviction and sentence passed by the lower court in the case of school principal Santhana Lakshmi, Gajalakshmi, noon meal organiser, engineer Jayachandran, District Educational Officer R Balaji, Personal Assistant Sivaprakasam supervisor Dhandavan and one Durairaj, an assistant. It modified the life sentence awarded to Palanisamy to one of the period already undergone during investigation, trial and post conviction and modified the fine amount to Rs to Rs 1,16,500. The Bench, which dismissed the appeal by Vasanthi, the cook, who was awarded five years imprisonment by the trial court, modified the sentence to one of the period already undergone. It directed that the bail bonds executed by the accused shall stand terminated. Ninety four children and a teacher were charred to death and 16 others seriously injured when a devastating fire swept through the Sri Krishna School and Saraswathi Nursery School complex in Kumbakonam on July 16, 2004.
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