Overspeeding and overcrowded school vans have come under the scanner of the Delhi court which has observed that no lessons have been learnt from the 1997 accident in which a school bus fell into the Yamuna river from Wazirabad bridge killing 28 children and leaving 60 injured.
The court said overspeeding of school buses, packed with children, is a common sight till date despite the Supreme Court's 1997 guidelines for their safe plying.
Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau directed the Commissioner of Police and Delhi Chief Secretary to ensure compliance of the directions passed by the apex court and the CBSE in 2017.
The court was recently hearing the appeal against a trial court's order which convicted the driver for rash and negligent driving due to which he lost control and the bus fell into the Yamuna River from the Wazirabad bridge on November 18, 1997.
The court dismissed the appeal of Kiran Pal Singh, the driver of the school bus, who was sentenced to two years jail on September 11, 2017, for rash and negligent driving and causing death by negligence.
The Sessions court said no lessons appeared to have been learnt from the 1997 incident as a lot still remained to be done in so far as the implementation by various agencies including the police and school authorities were concerned.
"Despite the Supreme Court having taken cognizance and laid down certain guidelines and the Central Board of Secondary Education having issued the circulars, a lot still remains to be done in so far as the implementation of the same by the various agencies including the police and school authorities are concerned," the court said.
"Even as on date school vans/ Omnis stuffed with small school children over speeding on the roads is a common sight. Unfortunately, most of us choose to look the other way and no lessons appear to have been learnt," it added.
The judge also remanded the main case back to the trial court with a direction to have a re-look with regard to the evidence which has come on record against Satya Prakash Rohilla (Incharge of the school bus), Hari Kishan (owner of the bus) and Sant Ram (principal of the school) who were discharged by the court earlier.
According to the prosecution, on November 18, 1997, Singh was driving a chartered bus which was hired by the school for carrying the children.
Complainant Tej Pal, a teacher in the school, had boarded the bus from Gokulpuri along with 11 students of a government school in Ludlo Castle here and around 30 children were already present inside. Thereafter, the bus also picked up other children and the total strength of the kids in the vehicle was around 100 to 120.
According to the complaint, Singh was driving the bus in a rash and negligent manner despite repeated requests and at about 7.20 am when the bus reached at Wazirabad, Yamuna Bridge, it crossed the footpath and fell into the river after breaking through the railing.
The driver had filed an appeal against the his conviction and sentence claiming that the trial court has failed to appreciate the culprits behind the offence who were safeguarded by the Investigating Officer whereas he has been prosecuted and convicted.
He had claimed that the court failed to appreciate his statement in which he had clearly stated that he used to complain to the owner of the bus and the school authorities for making certain changes in the bus and regarding huge number of students being boarded in the vehicle.
But still no action was taken on his complaints and even he was threatened of being fired in case he did not follow the instructions of the authorities.
The court, while remanding the case back, said it has also come on record that another bus carrying students had become dysfunctional as a result of which the children of that bus also had to board the offending vehicle as a result of which it was overcrowded.
"Driving an overcrowded bus at a high speed over the bridge of Yamuna River, is an act which is immensely dangerous and the negligence attributed to the appellant (Singh) is writ large," it said.
The court also took note of the mechanical inspection report and said that the size of tyres had been changed to increase the speed of the bus carrying children, particularly on an elevation over the bridge of the river and the investigation as to who was responsible for getting the same done was totally lacking.
"In so far as Singh is concerned, he was the regular driver of the offending bus and is deemed to be aware of the tyres of the bus having been changed and their size increased in order to further increase the speed of the bus particularly on elevation. This being the background, I hereby hold that the mechanical inspection report incriminates the accused," the judge said.