While emphasising that a permanent solution be found to save the lives of children travelling by school buses, the Madras High Court on Friday said it was high time the State Government came up with a rule fixing the criteria and the conditions for operating those vehicles.

The High Court Bench said the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules had no provision with regard to maintenance, fitness and conditions for plying school buses. A draft rule should be produced before the court in two weeks, it said.

A special cell may be created under the rule, empowering special officers to issue fitness certificates for school buses and imposing other stringent conditions, including penal provisions for violations, the court said.

Class II student Sruthi was run over by her school bus in Mudichur after she slipped through a hole in the vehicle’s floor on July 25. Taking suo motu cognisance of the matter, the Bench said that the suspension of the Regional Transport Officer and the Motor Vehicles Inspector “shall not be mere eye wash; rather, the government shall initiate departmental proceedings as well against them and pass suitable orders in accordance with law.”

The Bench also said that the management/owner of the school should pay an interim compensation of Rs. 50,000 to Sruthi’s parents in a week.

Advocate General A. Navaneethakrishnan told the Bench that the Chief Minister had ordered that stringent action be taken against the officials concerned. Five persons had been arrested and they included the bus owner, Yogeswaran Silvera, the school correspondent, Vijayan, bus driver, Seeman, and Motor Vehicles Inspector, Grade I, Tambaram, P. Rajasekharan, he said.

A criminal case had been registered under IPC sections 279 (rash driving or riding on a public way) and 304 (ii) (causing death by negligence) and sections 182 A and 190 of the Motor Vehicles Act, Mr. Navaneethakrishnan said, adding that the school had been issued a show cause notice seeking explanation as to why it should not be shut down.

The Bench said that in the interest of children studying in the school, the institution may not be closed. It directed the management to file counter to the government’s notice before August 9, the next hearing.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister sanctioned a solatium of Rs. 1 lakh for the bereaved family.