Taking serious note of growing number of school bus accidents, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has directed state government to get each and every school bus inspected to ensure its fitness and safety of students.
A division bench of chief justice Govind Mathur and justice Chandra Dhari Singh passed the judgement on January 13 on a PIL filed by ‘We The People’, an NGO through its general secretary Prince Lenin.
The court asked the respondent – principal secretary, transport – to instruct all district magistrates in the state to get each and every school bus inspected to ensure its fitness as per the state government’s order passed on November 20, 2012. The inspection is required to be made with the assistance of officers of the transport department at the district level. The assistance of the police authorities may also be taken by the district magistrates, the court ordered.
“The inspection as stated above is required to be made as a state-level campaign and that is to be completed on or before March 2, 2020. In the event of noticing non-compliance of any condition prescribed, it would be open for the competent authority to take appropriate action against the bus operator in accordance with the law,” the court directed.
It further directed that district magistrates would submit all the inspection reports to the principal secretary, transport, within a period of 10 days subsequent thereto. Later, a complete compliance report is required to be filed before the court on or before March 21, 2020, it ordered.
The court directed the principle secretary, transport, to examine the viability of installing tracking system in all school buses. The report in this regard is also required to be submitted before the next date of listing, the court ordered.
The petitioner sought directions to ensure that during winter fog or any other seasonal/weather disturbance, the order of the district magistrate for closure of schools in such district must be followed by all schools within the district. He further urged the court to direct the principal secretary, transport to carry out regular inspection of school buses/vehicles deployed for carrying school children regarding their fitness as per the norms and also constitute flying squads as per the directives of the apex court, for the safety of students .
The petitioner submitted that due to non-adherence of the instructions given, no safety and security as desired by the apex court, was given to the children travelling to the educational institutions through the school buses.
He had given several instances where due to negligence of the drivers or due to bad conditions of the vehicles, the school buses met with accidents causing huge loss of life.
A counter affidavit (reply) was filed on behalf of the state government stating that the state had taken several steps to check accidents and further that the government was abiding by the directions given by the supreme court. The state government in its reply contended that necessary steps had been taken to ensure complete safety and security to children travelling to educational institutions through buses.
It also stated that a detailed policy for registration and fitness of the school buses in continuation of the earlier office memorandum, a comprehensive plan/guidelines relating to the issue was announced on November 20, 2012.
The court observed that the state government’s directions were apparently not strictly followed. “On going through the guidelines prescribed by the government, we are having no doubt that at least on papers the government has taken effective steps. However, the main issue is with regard to compliance of the guidelines so given. The details of the accidents given by the petitioner in the petition for writ indicate that most of the school buses are not adhering to the conditions made under the state government’s order,” the court noted.
“No material is also placed on record to indicate that any inspection is made by any competent authority of the state to ensure compliance of the guidelines by the persons plying school buses”, the court observed while passing the order. It listed the case on March 27 for further orders.
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