The swimming pool has been closed after Thursday’s accident

The matter relating to the death of a nine-year-old boy, in a swimming pool in his school on Thursday, came before the High Court on Friday.

The First Bench ordered notice on a public interest plea seeking a direction to the state government to appoint an expert committee on safety.

The petitioner said the panel should study and report safety levels in schools, recommend guidelines for framing common safety levels for facilities in school premises, and maintaining swimming pools. It should also make guidelines for swimming training in schools, the petition said.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam directed the petitioner’s senior counsel, Vijay Narayanan, to provide details of the fee charged by the school for swimming and other extra-curricular activities. He must also produce the school’s prospectus, admission procedure and fee structure. The government pleader should inform the court whether the fire and rescue services department had laid down norms for using the swimming pool in the school.

The petitioner, E. Karthik Raja of Red Hills, an advocate, said, on Thursday, Ranjan, a class IV student of PSBB School in K.K.Nagar, drowned in the school’s swimming pool. Around 9.30 a.m., a school teacher informed his mother that during swimming training, Ranjan “had drunk water unconsciously” and been taken to a hospital.

When the parents rushed there, a doctor told them the boy had been “brought dead.” The manner in which the boy died showed utter lack of care and attention by school authorities, Mr. Raja said. The police had registered a case under section 304 (A) (causing death by negligence), a bailable offence, instead of Section 304 (ii) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Mr. Raja said. Instead of preventing such incidents, the police were now safeguarding the school management, he said.

The petitioner’s counsel said the school swimming pool was small and could accommodate only 15 students at a time. But on Thursday, when the accident took place, there were 30-35 students in the pool. For every five students there should have been one instructor.

After the incident, the school authorities waited for an ambulance to arrive to take the boy to the hospital when there were several cars available on the campus.

Violation of safety norms had resulted in the boy’s death, he said. A few months ago, another student drowned in the pool, but the matter was hushed up. “Some system has to be put in place to avoid such incidents,” the counsel said.

The government pleader, S. Venkatesh, filed a status report that said, five persons including swimming coach Rajasekaran had been arrested and later released on bail. The complaint disclosed that there was negligence by the school authorities. On the government’s direction, the swimming pool had been closed. “We are not going to spare anyone,” he said.

The Bench wanted to know whether swimming was a subject and if so what the guidelines were. It also wanted to know the State education authorities’ role in the matter.

The Chief Justice said that parents were equally responsible as they were carried away by attractive advertisements during school admissions. They did not thoroughly check the quality of facilities available at educational institutions, he said.

The matter has been posted for further hearing after two weeks.

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