The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court has ordered all the District Magistrates of the state to conduct a fitness test of school buses as per Supreme Court orders and to submit a compliance report thereto.
As per the order dated January 13, passed by Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Chandra Dhari Singh, the District Magistrates will submit their reports to the Principal Secretary Transport by 2 March and the Principal Secretary will file a complete compliance report in the court by March 21.
The order has been issued in the backdrop of the Supreme Court verdict in MC Mehta v. Union of India & Ors., 1997 (8) SCC 770, whereby certain general directions relating to the movement of buses were issued. These included stipulations with regards arrangement of seats, bus infrastructure, qualification of the bus driver, etc.
The high court was appraised that schools in the state were not adhering with these instructions, in a PIL filed by social organization, 'We the People'. "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," they submitted.
The Petitioner also highlighted 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.
The court has said that DMs can take assistance from concerned traffic officers and police force if needed to implement the orders. Inter alia, it has also asked the Principal Secretary to explore the possibility of installing tracking system in school buses.
Compliance is being done only on papers
The court noted that a detailed policy for registration and fitness of the school buses had already been formulated by the state. The government had issued an Office Memorandum dated June 29, 1998 and a comprehensive plan relating to the issue on November 20, 2012. However, the main issue was that of compliance.
"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 indicates that most of the school buses are not adhering the conditions prescribed under the order dated 20th November, 2012. 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 bench observed.
On this note, the high court has directed the Principal Secretary, Transport Department to monitor the works of the District Magistrates and ensure that the orders are complied with. Further, it has said that if the competent authority comes across any event non-compliance of any condition prescribed, it shall be open for them to take appropriate action against the bus operator.
The matter will not be listed on March 27.
Case Title: We the People v. Union of India & Ors.
Case No.: PIL (C) No. 2163/2017
Quorum: Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Chandra Dhari Singh
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