Sruthi case: school authorities were aware of the danger, says Advocate-General

The Madras High Court on Monday reserved orders on petitions by the correspondent of a school at Selaiyur near here, and a Motor Vehicles Inspector, seeking bail in the case relating to the death of a Standard II student, S. Sruthi, after she fell through a gaping hole in the school bus at Mudichur on July 25.

Justice G.M. Akbar Ali reserved orders on conclusion of arguments. The bail petitions were filed by N. Vijayan, correspondent of the Zion Group of Schools and P. Rajasekharan, Motor Vehicles Inspector, Tambaram.

Counsel said though the tragedy was unfortunate, there was no direct involvement of the correspondent. The school bus was maintained properly and Fitness Certificate obtained.

The Advocate-General said that the accident created not only a law and order problem but a public order issue. Opposing the bail petitions, he said the parent of a student had brought to the notice of the school authorities the hole on the floor of the bus. No action was taken. The school authorities knew about the danger.

Intervenor petitions

The Tamil Nadu Matriculation Schools Welfare Association, represented by its president Ananda Arumuham; S.F. Rahuman, Editor, Puratchi Sathanai; and S. Jim Raj Milton, secretary, Human Rights Protection Centre, Tamil Nadu, Chennai wing, have filed intervenor petitions, stating that the school and Transport Department authorities were jointly and severally responsible for the tragedy.

The school authorities should have checked the condition of the vehicles that were engaged directly by them or on contract to ensure students’ safety.

If the accused were released on bail, there was every possibility of the witnesses being influenced. The school administration had not taken care to change the flooring material in the bus.

By a public interest litigation petition P. Pugalenthi, an advocate of George Town here, sought a direction to the authorities to take steps for registering a case under Section 304 (ii) IPC against all those responsible for the death of the child.

He said on October 9, 2007, a Division Bench of the Madras High Court had directed the State Government to comply with the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in the MC Mehta Vs Union of India with regard to educational institution buses. The court had specifically directed the authorities to check the buses periodically and not less than four times in a year.

The government did not implement the order.

The First Bench of Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam said that the PIL be posted along with the petition of suo motu cognisance of the court of the death of the child.