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Cover-up finger at Sapphire principal

- Binay murder was explained as suicide or accident, 12-year-old victim's brothers tell court

Sapphire International School in Hardag, Ranchi

Sapphire International School principal Dhruba Das tried to cover up the campus murder of Class VII student Binay Mahto as an accident or a suicide, the victim's younger brothers told the court on Monday.

Appearing before additional judicial commissioner M.C. Verma as prosecution witnesses, Vivek Mahto (11) and Vipul Mahto (8), who were then Class V and Class I students of the same school, said principal Das called them in the morning of February 5, 2016. While Vivek was allegedly told that Binay, then 12, had jumped off the teachers' hostel roof, Vipul was given the impression that his elder brother had an accidental fall.

"The principal, in the presence of a couple of teachers, said Binay had jumped (off the teachers' hostel) and died. He asked me if I knew what my brother was doing at the teachers' hostel so late (on February 4 night)," Vivek said in court, adding that Das repeated "the story" on February 5 evening when their uncle came to the residential school in Hardag, 25km from capital Ranchi, to take them home.

"Before I left the campus, the principal asked me to tell my father that Binay had died after falling off the roof of the teachers' hostel. He also asked me to tell my father to allow me to study in the school because I had many good friends there," Vivek said, seated on a chair beside the additional judicial commissioner.

Earlier, the 11-year-old had identified accused Nazia Hussain as his Hindi teacher and her co-accused husband Arif Ali Ansari as a former teacher of Sapphire.

Vivek also told the court that he had last met Binay in the dining hall of the school around 8pm on February 4. "My brother had fever and I asked him to take care. After that I did not see him again," said the boy.

Asked why he hadn't told police about his conversation with the principal, Vivek claimed he never had had the right opportunity. "Police took my statement only once on February5 and I never met the officers again," he said.

Younger brother Vipul more or less corroborated what Vivek said.

"I came to know about Binay's death from our school principal. He told me my elder brother had fallen off the teachers' hostel roof," Vipul said after he identified both Nazia and Arif in court like Vivek. Vipul too said police never bothered to talk to him properly.

One among 19 witnesses being examined in the lower court since November last year, principal Das did not mention his accident and suicide theories in front of the additional judicial commissioner.

Das, who appeared as witness on December 7, had only said that he came to know of the "incident" around 1am on February 5 last year and had arranged for a private vehicle to take Binay, "who was still alive", to hospital.

Das had further said that he came to know that the boy didn't make it in hospital after two hours later.

As the court on Monday examined the young boys, mother Kashila Devi and father Manbahal Mahto said they had never anticipated such a situation in their life. "Who would have thought that my younger sons would one day be examined as witnesses in their brother's murder," Kashila Devi said.

Defence lawyer Chandrashekhar Pandey, who was present in court to assist his senior Sambhu Prasad Agrawal, said the statements of Vivek and Vipul suggested that Binay's murder was "smartly plotted" to implicate innocent people. "The statements will help us prove the innocence of our clients (Nazia, Arif and their two minor children)," he said.

Assistant public prosecutor Sanjeev Kumar Sinha refused to draw conclusions at this stage. "The trial is going on. Today (Monday), the victim's brothers were examined. Tomorrow (Tuesday), the father will appear in court. It is too early to comment," he said.


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