The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday made it clear that schools cannot shirk their responsibility for ensuring safety of students in school buses, whether owned by schools or hired from contractors.
The remarks came from Justice Rajive Bhalla who was hearing a case involving safety issues of school buses.
During the hearing, the court was informed about the recent incident wherein a five-year-old girl studying in KG at a private school in Sector 38, Chandigarh, was molested by the conductor in the school bus, but the school principal disowned responsibility, saying the bus belonged to a contractor, not the school.
One of the advocates submitted that there was a need to have female assistants in school buses for ensuring the safety of children. On this, the judge observed that there already exists a provision in the Punjab government’s Safe School Vahan policy for female attendants, which was released in November 2013. He directed the Chandigarh Administration as well as the Haryana government to explore the possibility of carrying out necessary modification in their policies for provision of female school bus attendants.
Justice Bhalla observed that there would also be concerns about the safety of female attendants on school buses and their salaries which needed to be deliberated upon. He remarked that schools might burden parents for payment of female attendants’ salaries.
To ensure that no student got injured while boarding or getting down from a moving school bus, the court directed the Chandigarh Administration, Punjab as well as the Haryana government to explore the possibility of fixing hydraulic doors which could be operated only by the drivers.
Justice Bhalla summoned the secretary of the unaided schools organisation of Ludhiana on the next date of hearing for ensuring that the Safe School Vahan policy was followed by all schools. The court also directed traffic expert Kamaljeet Soi to visit Amritsar and Jalandhar and talk to schools associations so as to make them aware of the safety norms. Soi had earlier informed the court that after inspecting school buses of Ludhiana, he had found that they were violating the policy.
The case was posted for next hearing to May 27.