Girl school bus death: ‘Frame norms for school buses`

A concerned Madras High Court asked the state government to come up with rules fixing norms for running school buses meant for children.

Chennai: In the wake of the gory death of a six-year-old girl after she fell through a hole on the floor of her school bus, a concerned Madras High Court Oon Friday asked the state government to come up with rules fixing norms for running school buses meant for children.

The court, which had suo motu taken note of the death of S Sruthi, a class II student of a private school who was crushed under the wheels of her school bus, directed the government to furnish the draft rules within two weeks.

"It is high time that the state government comes up with a rule fixing the criteria and conditions for running school buses meant for carrying the children," the court said two days after the incident that created a public outcry over the condition of vehicles carrying school children.

A bench comprising Chief Justice M Y Eqbal and Justice T S Sivagnanam said, "We feel that a permanent solution has to be found to save the lives of the school going children, who travel by buses owned by the schools and other educational institutions."

The court, which had yesterday directed the appearance of officials allegedly responsible for the tragedy, however, dispensed with it after the government informed that the bus owner, driver, cleaner, school correspondent (administrator), and a Motor Vehicle inspector had been arrested.

The court was also informed that a case under IPC sections 279 (rash driving on public road) and 304(ii) (causing death without intention to kill) had been registered against them.

"However, the suspension of the Regional Transport officer and Motor Vehicles inspector shall not be a mere eyewash, rather the government shall initiate departmental proceedings as well against them and pass suitable orders in accordance with law," the bench observed.

On Advocate General A Navaneethakrishnan`s submission that some transport department officials, including the RTO and motor vehicles inspector had been suspended, the Bench wanted to know for how long they would be suspended.
"..Till the matter disappears from the newspapers?" they asked and said for such an incident they could be charged with murder.

The matter was posted for next hearing to August 9.
The court pointed out that the rules framed by the state government were silent with regard to maintenance, fitness and the conditions for plying school buses.

It suggested creation of a special cell under the Motor Vehicles Rules, empowering special officers to give fitness certificate for school buses and to impose other stringent conditions, including penal provision for violation thereof.

Referring to the submissions made by the AG that the government, among other things, had issued notice for closure of the school, the Judges said that since they were seized of the matter and taking into consideration the interest of the children attending the school "it may not be closed."

Directing the school to submit its counter to the showcause notice, the Bench also directed it to pay Rs 50,000 as interim compensation to the parents of the deceased girl, within a week from today.

Navaneethakrishnan also told the Bench that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had instructed that stringent action be taken against those responsible for the accident.