Mumbai: Voicing its concern over the alarming number of road accidents, the Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra government to ensure safety of children, who are ferried by school vans. The HC has accordingly asked the Transport Commissioner to spell out if the government has any mechanism to monitor the plying if school vans.
A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice Nitin Sambre observed, “It is very astonishing and shocking to see the number of road accidents, which are alarming. We expect the government to ensure that children travel safely in school buses.”
“The government should monitor the operations of school vans so that even the parents can feel that their child would return home safely. You (government) must come up with some mechanism to monitor the school vans as there are chances that several of them would be plying without any proper licence,” Justice Patil observed.
The observations were made in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) claiming that the safety of children has been jeopardized because the government was not insisting upon a Common Standard Agreement (CSA) between the bus operators and the schools.
During the course of hearing, the judges were informed that there are nearly 11,922 registered bus/van operators in the State. The judges were also informed that out of this, a total of 8,591 operators are functioning on the basis of a CSA with school managements.
Having heard the status, the judges said, “We want the government to spell out how it is going to monitor these vehicles (who are not operating upon any agreement/contract with schools). Does the government has any knowledge if all these vehicles are licenced to ferry children. We know that it is not possible for the State to look into each corner but we expect some mechanism in place for this issue.”
“We want the government to put on record the details like the maximum and minimum capacity of school vans. Also, let us know if the government has proposed any specific design for school vans,” the judges added. While suggesting the government to conduct random inspections, the judges said, “We think you should make the existing laws more stringent. You have to regulate this transport since the safety of children is at stake…” The matter is likely to be taken up for hearing next week.