School, child abuse, child safety
[Representational image]Creative Commons

The driver of a school bus in Pune was arrested and remanded in police custody on Saturday (February 4) on charges of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl in January. He was booked for committing unnatural offence and sexual assault under the Indian Penal Code and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. 

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The mother of the girl noticed that her behaviour had changed after January 21. The girl looked anxious and got agitated when her mother asked her what was wrong. 

The driver and the two women attendants were suspended after the incident was brought to notice of the school's principal. 

"Since the case was registered late in the night, we first arrested the accused. The girl does not know the registration number of the bus. The school authorities will be questioned to identify the bus on Monday. We shall also tell the school to provide details of the caretakers in the bus," said Inspector, Crime, Varsharani Patil of Kondhwa police station. There was delay in registering the case as the four-year-old was in shock and did not understand what had happened, the police said. 

The girl told her mother on January 23 that the "bald driver" had removed her clothes and sexually assaulted her at the back of the bus after the school hours. The girl also revealed his name but the name used was not his. 

"The driver had misused the principal's name for committing the act and threatened to lock my daughter in a dark room if she disclosed the sexual abuse to her family," said the child's mother.

On January 24, the incident was reported to the school's principal. A police complaint was filed after the principal advised the parents to do so. According to the complaint, the principal showed the girl the photo of the driver, which is how she recognised him.

"The bus is run by the society that also runs the school. Police verification of the driver, who has been working with us for 16 years, was not done, but we were in the process of conducting verification. Two women caretakers were present in the bus but we don't know when the molestation occurred. We want the police to investigate the individual role of the driver and the caretakers in the crime. We suspended the driver and caretakers the day the parents brought the molestation to my notice," the principal told the Times of India. 

The girl's elder brother studies in Standard 2 of the same school though they have different timings.

The girl's father, a businessman, said the two women attendants were not alert despite being in the bus when the sexual abuse took place. He also said the incident was reported to the class teacher but she was not responsive.