File separate petition on safety of children aged below 6 years, says High Court

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Bombay High Court said Wednesday a separate petition be filed raising the question of safety of children under six on school buses.

Jamshed Mistry, counsel for Indrani Malkani who has intervened in a petition filed by School Bus Owners Association (SBOA), told the court the notification laying down safety conditions on school buses did not cover children under the age of six attending kindergarten, nurseries or play groups.

The court said it is a serious issue but added the subject should be dealt with in a separate petition.

"We will file the petition in a few days," Mistry said. He said they had raised the issue in court in the wake of two incidents in the recent past in which kindergarten students were allegedly sexually assaulted by bus cleaners.

A four-year-old student of a Juhu school was allegedly molested by Ramesh Rajput, the school bus cleaner on January 18 in a running school bus. Another incident was reported on Monday, in which a three-year-old nursery student was allegedly inappropriately touched by a cleaner Sandeep Mandale on February 19.

"If the nursery, kindergarten and pre-primary section is attached to the regular school, it automatically comes under the school bus safety policy. The problem is only with independent play schools and nursery," said SBOA (Mumbai) president Anil Garg.

In June last year, SBOA had moved court contending that the notification that lays down the new safety conditions be stayed. The association had also sought a court direction to the transport department to grant permits and fitness certificates to school buses that were registered prior to the issuance of the contentious notification. SBOA had expressed its objection to several provisions in the notification, including requirements of an attendant inside the buses, a requirement of two entrances and the maximum age of the buses.

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