While the criminal justice system should hand over the most deterrent of punishment to the six perpetrators in the quickest of time, the family of the girl (and also her friend who was beaten up brutally) should also use the consumer justice system to hold the transport operator accountable and vicariously liable for what happened during that bus journey on the night of December 16.
The transport department of the Delhi government and the Delhi Police must also be made liable for their negligence.
The six arrested men may be the perpetrators of the crime, but the bus owner too is guilty of gross negligence in the way he ran his bus service, leading eventually to the horrific gang rape. If only he had done due diligence in hiring a driver for his bus (particularly when it was ferrying school children), he would not have chosen Ram Singh, who already had a criminal record, and the girl would have been saved from this ordeal.
Similarly, the transporter, through his employees, failed to follow the conditions governing the permit for contract carriage buses. If only he had ensured strict vigilance over his bus and the employees, they would not have embarked on an unscheduled, unchartered journey and picked up unauthorised passengers in violation of the permit conditions. Similarly, the use of tinted glasses for windows also emboldened the criminals and contributed to the crime.
Therefore, he has to be held accountable and made to pay a huge compensation to the victims for his lapses. So huge that it should send out a clear signal to all other transporters that such carelessness in respect of the transport services that they run will not be condoned.
This will further force transport operators to install CCTV cameras, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and take all necessary measures to prevent any kind of criminal activities in buses.
Since the transport authorities as well as the police failed to ensure that the bus owner conformed to the licensing/ permit conditions and also the rules governing commercial vehicles under the Motor Vehicles Act, they also have to be held accountable and named along with the transporter as the opposite parties in the complaint.
Since the victim and her friend paid for that journey, they also come under the definition of ‘consumers’ of the transport service and acquire the right to sue the transport company for the physical and mental torture inflicted during the journey.
Any complaint, where the compensation sought is over R1 crore, is to be filed before the highest consumer court. Given the nature of this case, I am sure the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission will take it up immediately and deal with it with utmost sensitivity.
S.N.Gupta: Recently, during a train travel, I was manhandled and insulted by a group of students because I protested over their entry into reserved coaches. My complaint to the TTE too brought no results. Can I go to the consumer court on this issue?
Answer: You certainly can. In Union of India Vs Manoj H.Pathak, ( RP NO 609 of 1995, order dated 26-4-1996) where Pathak was attacked by ticketless travellers for resisting their entry into the reserved train compartment, the national commission held the railways liable for their failure to prevent the entry of unauthorised persons and ordered payment of compensation to him.