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Security hurdle for Leyland

delhi Updated: Apr 13, 2011 00:34 IST
Harish V Nair

With increasing number of Ashok Leyland low-floor buses failing fire test, DTC has sought permission of the Delhi high court to check the entire fleet of 1,093 buses set to be inducted into its fleet.

The move came after 116 buses recently failed tests conducted by the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC). The buses were found with faulty wiring. DTC told the court that it was acting cautiously owing to the approaching summer during which maximum number of blaze in buses are reported.

DTC has also sought the seal of approval of the court for its decision to withhold Rs312 crore due to Ashok Leyland towards supply of remaining buses as per the contract term till the tests are complete.

Safety concerns were first raised by senior lawyer Kailash Vasdev who was assisting the court in Blueline phase-out matter as amicus curiae. This was when DTC was set to procure 1,300 Ashok Leyland buses before the CWG.

He accused DTC of procuring "sub-standard" buses. He also referred to the CBI FIR dated July 21, 2010 in the case where Ashok Leyland officials allegedly bribed experts of Pune-based Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT) into forging critical laboratory test reports of plywood samples used in CNG buses to be supplied to Delhi government.

Pointing out that the CBI was investigating the role of three technical experts from CIRT and two Leyland officials, it was contended that samples of the plywood had failed the fire safety tests and were found to be highly inflammable.

The FIR is for criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and dishonestly inducing delivery of property; and criminal misconduct by public servant.

The affidavit filed in court by DTC counsel Sumeet Pushkarna said: "Considering the complexity of the matter involving contractual obligations, criminal investigation and public safety and public revenue, payment have been kept on hold. Public safety and proper use of public revenue is more important."

Leyland told the court it was using the highest quality of material and assured that it itself will take corrective steps in the 116 buses which failed the fire test. A bench headed by justice AK Sikri directed all parties to sit together, discuss the issue and come back to court. The bench said it will give directions on safety aspect on April 21, the next date of hearing.