ISLAMABAD, Dec 9: The Supreme Court ordered on Monday that all public vehicles, including buses, vans, trucks, taxis and rickshaws, plying across the country without fitness certificates and route permits or violating provisions of the Motor Vehicle Ordinance, 1965, be kept off the road. The court issued the directive in a suo motu case relating to the May 25 incident in which 16 children and a teacher were killed when a school van caught fire near Gujrat. The notice was taken on an editorial that appeared in an English daily on May 26. It described tragedy as nothing short of murder or at least manslaughter. The editorial also blamed the van driver and said the convenient, standard identification of short-circuiting as the cause of fire were dire signs of guilty seeking to take the old escape route.
“It is an established fact that driver of the van Mohammad Irfan kept cans of petrol in the vehicle,” said the judgment authored by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
This highlighted illegal availability of open petrol, a violation of Rule 21 of the Petroleum Rules, 1985, which must be checked by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, it said, adding that Ogra and the Chief Inspector of Explosives (CIE) had completely failed to fulfil their obligations under the relevant laws and were liable for criminal action under the Pakistan Penal Code for the death of 16 children and the teacher.
The court directed chief secretaries of the four provinces and Islamabad Chief Commissioner Jawwad Paul to submit within a month comprehensive reports on the matter for perusal of the judges in their chambers and for further orders.
It also directed the regional transport authorities of the provinces to issue fitness certificates strictly in accordance with rules and not to allow any unfit vehicle to come on the road. “This will help discourage the owners and drivers to cause insecurity to the life of the passengers and their lives could also be protected from road accidents in future,” the judgment said.
It said the CIEs, in exercise of powers conferred upon them under the Mineral Industrial Gases Safety (MIGS) Rules, 2010, read with Petroleum Rules, 1937, would ensure action against decanting of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), illegal sale of petrol and unfit vehicles by carrying out inspection from time to time.
Ogra was directed to take strict action against licence-holder petrol pumps and CNG stations if they were found selling lose petrol or providing CNG to the vehicles with unbranded or substandard cylinders. The court directed the Punjab inspector general to take action against people responsible for the Gujrat incident. The Punjab government was asked to provide compensation to the families of the deceased children and the teacher if it had not already done so.