It may be a while before school buses comply with the new safety norms laid down by the state government as the School Bus Owners Association has challenged their legality before the Bombay high court.
The public interest litigation, against the 23 safety aspects mentioned in the government notification of March 22, 2011, will be heard on Friday. The petition states that the association, which claims to be the apex body of school bus owners since 2010, is not against safety rules for school children travelling in various types of vehicles, including school buses, but finds that the sudden and often arbitrarily changes are illegal on many counts, including on technical aspects.
According to the petitioners’ lawyer VP Patil, the traffic department is demanding that these new rules be followed even though they are not law yet. “We want a legislation to be enacted before the rules are enforced,” Patil said. The petitioners say that though the notification was issued last year, it has not yet been placed before the state legislature.
The association has alleged step-brotherly treatment as the buses run by state bodies such as the BEST and MSRTC don’t follow these safety rules when their vehicles are used exclusively for schoolchildren. It also claims the regional transport office (RTO) is not issuing permits and accepting tax from them, due to which they cannot ply their vehicles.
The school bus owners have alleged harassment due to various notifications and rules framed by the state, and due to lack of uniformity in enforcing them in the absence of specific direction from the government.
Earlier this month, while hearing another PIL, the high court had made a suggestion to the government to include school buses under the Essential Services Maintenance Act.