The Bombay High Court today directed the Maharashtra government to ensure that private vehicles, plying as school buses, comply with the state's prescribed safety rules.
A bench of Justices Naresh Patil and N W Sambre said that the transport department must ensure that all registered school buses and private vehicles, ferrying children to and from schools, have valid permits, and that they adhere to the security norms prescribed by the Maharashtra Motor Vehicles (Regulations for School Buses) Rules 2011.
The bench directed the state's counsel, Abhinandan Vagyani, to file an affidavit within three weeks, detailing the number of vehicles being used in the state to ferry children to and from schools, the minimum and maximum number of children that such vehicles are permitted to seat, and the safety arrangements that such vehicles have.
"Often, we have seen autorickshaws and tempos being used by school children. While they have a capacity to seat four to five passengers, such autos pack so many children that there is no visible space left," the bench said.
"What if some accident takes place. What steps do you take to prevent such instances?" the bench asked.
"Ensure school children travel safely in school buses.
Let parents feel that their child will come back home safely," it said.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by an association of parents of school-going children seeking that private vehicles that do not meet the state's safety guidelines are not permitted to ply as school buses.
As per the state's 2011 rules, all such vehicles that are used as school buses should have a fixed seating capacity.
There must be one male and one female attendant on all such vehicles which should also have functional GPS, grills on the windows etc.
As per an affidavit submitted by Vagyani today, around 11,922 vehicles are currently registered as school buses in the state.
Of these, around 8,200 vehicles have a registered agreement with the respective schools that use their services.
The rest are hired as private vehicles by parents.
"Do you check whether all these vehicles, including those that are registered with the schools, comply with the state's safety rules?" the bench asked.
"Do you conduct any surprise checks? Why don't you make such rules that if vehicles that fail to comply with your norms, they will lose their permits to ply?" the bench said.
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