Kerala High Court | Photo: Mathrubhumi Archives
Kochi: The Kerala High Court was told by the state government on Saturday that drivers transporting pilgrims to Sabarimala were being informed, by the Motor Vehicles Department, about road conditions in the ghat sector and safe practices to be followed to avoid untoward incidents like the recent accident that claimed the life of a girl.
The submission was made by the government before a bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and P G Ajithkumar that held a special sitting in view of the accident that occurred on Friday when a bus carrying pilgrims, from Chennai in Tamil Nadu to Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, went off the road and fell into a ditch.
A 10-year-old girl died in the incident and 13 others were injured.
When the issue was taken up by the bench, the government said two accidents involving Sabarimala pilgrims had taken place about a month back on November 18 and 19.
In one, on November 19, as many as 43 people including a boy suffered injuries after a bus carrying Sabarimala pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh met with an accident and overturned near Laha in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district.
In the other one also, Sabarimala pilgrims had suffered injuries, the government lawyer told the court.
The state government also said that it was complying with the court's November 19 direction to the Enforcement Wing of the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) to generate awareness to drivers of vehicles carrying pilgrims about road conditions and also the safe practices to be followed.
In view of the submissions by the government, the court listed the matter for further hearing on December 21 when the report of the concerned Enforcement Officer on the recent motor accidents is expected to be placed on record.
An officer of Erumely police station had said on Friday that the accident occurred between 3-3.30 pm when the vehicle was trying to navigate a treacherous hairpin curve there which is prone to accidents.
The officer said it was believed that mechanical failure of the minibus was the cause for the accident, but it was not confirmed.
In the special sitting of the court, the government said that the driver lost control of the vehicle, which hit the side barricade and fell into a ditch.
There were 20 pilgrims, including 5 children, in the minibus, according to police.
Another issue the court took up was based on a news report that pilgrims were facing difficulties in boarding KSRTC vehicles at Pamba-Triveni.
According to the news report, pilgrims issued group tickets were not allowed to travel together in a single bus.
On this issue, the government said sufficient police personnel would be deployed at the boarding points to ensure such incidents do not happen and to regulate the number of passengers in each bus.
Taking note of that, the court directed the District Collector of Pathanamthitta to evolve a mechanism at the KSRTC boarding point at Pamba, in consultation with other stakeholders, "to ensure that the pilgrims, including those who have booked group tickets, are not put to difficulties".
With the direction, the bench listed the matter for further hearing on December 19.
The annual two-month long pilgrimage season began on November 17 and the 41-day Mandala puja festival at the famed Lord Ayyappa Swamy shrine will conclude on December 27.
Thereafter, the temple will be opened again on December 30 for the Makaravilakku pilgrimage, which will end on January 14, 2023. The shrine will be closed on January 20, 2023 concluding the pilgrimage season.