A Qatari criminal court has asked the defence counsel of a prominent Indian school to produce a former principal during whose tenure a four-and-a-half-year-old Kindergarten student died last year in a school mini-bus due to heat and suffocation as she was left locked inside for hours.
The principal has left Qatar. The father of the deceased child and the young driver’s father, a key accused in the case, have all deposed in court,
Al Sharq reported yesterday.
The court, according to the daily, has referred the matter to a judicial bench and asked the school’s counsel to produce the then principal of the DPS-Modern Indian School (MIS) in the court. While the daily said the principal — Santosh Mattu — is not in Doha, the school’s website suggests that she left her job on April 22 this year. The school now has an acting principal.
The shocking incident in which Sarah Gazdhar was found dead in the van in Al Wakra took place on May 17 last year. While seated in the rear of the vehicle she had dozed off and the 19-year-old driver of the van forgot to make sure that she had got down with other children at the school.
The driver took the van to Al Wakra where he parked the vehicle in the scorching sun, leaving hapless Sarah sleeping inside unnoticed.
Sarah’s father, Mohamed Talha Gazdhar, told the court that on the day of the tragic incident he got a call from his wife at 12.10 noon saying that their daughter who came back from the school at 12 noon sharp was not back so far.
Gazdhar said that he became suspicious and went to the school at 1pm and was told that his daughter had been taken for emergency care in an ambulance.
Gazdhar blamed the school for the tragedy and said that there was no supervisor in the mini-bus on the day of the incident. “It is because of the school’s negligence that my daughter died,” he told the court. He said the van was hired by the school from a private party.
The driver’s father told the court that he got a call from his son at 1pm and when he told him that a child was left in the van since morning and he (the driver) didn’t know if she was dead or alive, he (the father) asked him not to go near the vehicle and instead report the matter to the police.
According to Al Sharq, the driver told investigators that he did pick Sarah and her elder brother from their home in Al Wakra in the morning of May 17 and that he also remembered that the deceased’s brother had got down from the vehicle at the school.
When asked by an investigator if he made sure that Sarah had also left the vehicle to go to the school, the driver said he didn’t remember anything.
A prominent criminal lawyer, when contacted, told The Peninsula yesterday that since the former principal of the school had left Qatar for good it was difficult to get her back to be produced in the court. “Only if there is a sentencing by a court in a criminal matter, can the Interpol be approached for a foreigner’s extradition. In this case there is no sentencing, so she cannot be bought here,” the lawyer said asking not to be named.
The lawyer said he was surprised how the principal was allowed to leave the country when a court case of a very sensitive nature was on against the school. “Even in small criminal cases a ban is imposed on overseas travel of suspects whereas this was a very serious and sensitive case,” said the lawyer.
Reacting to The Peninsula, Gazdhar said that the fact that the principal had left Qatar for good did not mean that she was not responsible for the tragic incident.
She shouldn’t have been allowed to leave the country, he said agreeing with the lawyer. Gazdhar said he was not happy with the way the case was dragging in the court. The school, he said, was making a mockery of the court.