The consumer disputes commission on Wednesday ordered Rs 10 lakh compensation to be paid to the father of a second standard girl who died after slipping through a gaping hole on the floor of her school bus in Chennai over more than three and half years ago.
E Sruthi's death in July 2012 prompted the Madras High Court to initiate suo motu proceedings to address several road safety issues. It had also passed a series of orders, many of which were complied with by the government too.
The incident occurred on July 25, 2012 when Sruthi, a student of Zion Matriculation School at Selaiyur near Tambaram, was sitting in the sixth row of the bus. A wooden plank covering the hole on the bus floor gave way and she slipped through and was run over.
Her father E R Sethumadhavan said he had deposited Rs 7,700 annual transportation fee for 11 months and the child died due to negligence on the part of the management and due to improper maintenance of the school bus. He sought Rs 25 lakh compensation, saying Sruthi was their only child and his wife had undergone sterilization as well.
The school correspondent-cum-principal VIjayan, however, countered the claim, saying the bus had been leased by the school and it was owned by one Yogesh. Therefore, the school management is not responsible for the tragedy.
Also, the high court had already taken suo motu note of the incident and directed the management to pay certain amount to Sethumadavan. Therefore, the present consumer complaint is not maintainable, he submitted.
The accident occurred due to rash and negligent driving, for which the school management could not be held responsible, he argued.
Rejecting the submissions, a bench comprising presiding judicial member P Jayaram and member P Bakiyavathi today said "we hold that there is negligence and deficiency in service on the part of the opposite party in not maintaining the school bus properly, resulting in the death of the child. Hence, the complainant is entitled to claim compensation...."
On the submission that the issue had already been raised in the HC and so the consumer commission had no jurisdiction to hear it, the bench said the high court had clearly stated that the amount ordered by it would be payable to the parents "independent of any other claim that may be raised by members of the bereaved family under any other law in force."
However, the bench found the Rs 25 lakh compensation be on the higher side and awarded Rs 10 lakh, to be paid by the school to Sruthi s father within two months, failing which the amount would carry nine per cent annual interest from the date of default.