The family of people killed or crippled by the notorious Blueline buses may finally begin to get compensation as the Delhi High Court on Wednesday made its intentions clear on the issue for the first time.
Since eight months, the High Court has been charging Rs 1 lakh from owners of buses involved in fatal accidents and Rs 50,000 from those buses which caused grievous injuries as fines for the release of the vehicle. The amount is lying at various magistrate courts where the owners apply for the release of the buses. But the money is yet to go to the victims. "What is the point in holding the amount? It should go to the victims," said a Bench of Chief Justice AP Shah and Justice S Muralidhar.
The lawyer assisting the court AJ Bhambani then said the earlier Bench headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal had on July 7 directed the District Judge to seek reports from magistrates on the total fines collected by them. Bhambani said approximately Rs 40 lakh has been collected till now.
The court had imposed the fines as an interim measure till the amendment in the Motor Vehicle Act, hiking the fines. A petition filed by the kin of victims seeking compensation for all victims is already pending in the court.
Holding divergent views from that of the earlier bench, Chief Justice Shah said it was wrong to single out and penalise the Bluelines.
He said the same principle should apply to the DTC buses and other public vehicles involved in accidents.
"If there is a scheme for ex-gratia, I fail to understand why only Bluelines?… for compensation there is a provision in Motor Vehicles Act . It cannot be just for Bluelines but all vehicles", he said. The Bench said the DTC being a "public authority" should not hesitate to immediately deposit at least Rs 50,000 as immediate relief mechanism in case of fatalities or grievous injuries.
Justice Shah also said "making the owners deposit money in the court is not going to solve the problem. But let us continue this for sometime though it has to be rationalised. This is why I am saying the amount has to be immediately disbursed to the victims. If it is a punitive measure, it needs the backing of law and if the amount was meant for compensation, the amount must be distributed immediately. Here is a case where the court introduced this sytem and now this must be rationalised".
Victim's records summoned: As a first step towards payment of compensation, the Bench asked Delhi Government counsel Mukta Gupta to produce records of the Buses involved in accidents, names of legal heirs of those killed and the name of the injured.