A special investigation team (SIT) formed by the rural police to probe into the road crash in which a school bus had collided with a truck is soft-pedaling on the issue and has made no move to proceed against the accused. Thirteen school children had died and eight were injured after a school bus collided with a truck at Gohir village near Nakodar on March 5.
Interestingly, a week-long magisterial inquiry had indicted Akal Academy management and the bus owner for violating court orders and state government instructions in the management of the school transport.
Now, 81 days after the incident, the police are not even clear on who is heading the SIT. Jalandhar (rural) SSP YS Hayre had constituted the SIT comprising SP (detective), DSP (Nakodar) and SHO (Nakodar) soon after the crash.
“I am not heading the team. I was deputed initially, but after the arrest of the truck driver and the post-mortem of the bodies, local police officials handled the probe. SP Mukhwinder Singh is now team leader,” SP Rajinder Singh said. SSP Hayre also said that Mukhwinder Singh was probe panel head.
On this, Mukhwinder Singh clarified: “I was only asked to inquire school bus ownership issue and that too after the parents' allegations and complaint was forwarded to me by the deputy commissioner. On Friday, a separate FIR was registered under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the IPC against bus owner Harpinder Singh. I am not SIT in-charge,” Harpinder Singh is now in Australia.
Though the bus owner was booked for not complying with the court orders, but the same yard stick was not applied against the erring school management, Surinder Saini, president, Jalandhar Welfare Society, alleged.
Saini demanded that a sitting High Court judge should be entrusted to probe the school bus crash to bring the guilty to book.
Saini's letter to the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana high court, quoting the Nakodar tragedy as gross failure of the officials to act against violators, was converted into public interest litigation.
“I demanded strict compliance of the court and the government instructions about school transport management. There is no safety for school students, since overloaded auto rickshaws continue to ply in connivance with the authorities concerned, even after the horrific crash. The police and transport officials failed to act in the Nakodar crash as well as in enforcement of court orders,” Saini alleged. The state government had submitted its reply on Thursday, with the next hearing scheduled for August 1.
Meanwhile, on failure to take action against school management, SHO Subash Bath said that investigations were still on. On being informed that the Nakodar SDM had concluded that the school management was negligent, Bath feigned ignorance and said that he would read the report soon.