The BEST bus driver arrested on Friday for allegedly sexually assaulting a six-year-old girl in a moving bus is likely to be suspended, a crime branch official said. Sopan Ugale (32) was caught by Unit 12 of the Mumbai Police Crime Branch from Bhagat Singh Nagar in Goregaon West a day after the alleged assault of the girl in a Shirdi-Mumbai bus. He was later handed over to Kurar police station.
“The accused is likely to be suspended by his employer and face a departmental inquiry by the BEST,” said a senior crime branch official. He added that Ugale, who is posted at the Goregaon BEST bus depot, was returning to Mumbai from his native village near Shirdi on Thursday. The police said the girl was in the bus, returning to Mumbai after a trip to Shirdi with her parents and sibling. Initially, the two children had been crammed in one seat with their parents as the bus was crowded. After a few passengers got off and seats became vacant, the girl was made to sit next to Ugale, on a vacant seat, the police said.
The police added that on Thursday evening, after the girl fell asleep, Ugale touched her inappropriately. But the alleged assault came to light when the girl and her family got off at Goregaon and she began crying. After the girl narrated the incident, her parents approached Kurar police station to lodge a complaint.
“The accused was a friend of the cleaner working on the bus. The cleaner had put his name down on the passenger list. Had the name not been there on the list, it would have been difficult for us to find him,” said an official at Unit 12. The police said they also got help from the owner of the bus, who tracked down Ugale’s family in his native village and contacted them.
“Through the family, we got to know that the accused had separated from his wife, who now stays in the village. The accused was in Mumbai alone and he would sleep at the bus depot after his shifts ended,” the officer added.
Ugale has been booked for committing sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.