I just woke her up, says Kallada driver after woman cries molestation bid

Kallada bus driver arrested for molestation bid onboard
Kallada bus driver Johnson Joseph.

Thenjipalam, Malappuram: A driver of interstate private bus chain Kallada has been arrested for trying to molest a woman passenger. This the latest case of untoward incident reported against the same ptivate bus chain, which had earlier made headlines after the crew manhandled a few passengers in the dead of the night in Kochi.

Reserve driver of the Manipal-Thiruvananthapuram bus Johnson Joseph of Puthuppally in Kottayam was arrested for the latest crime on the bus.

The woman from Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu alleged that Joseph grabbed her while she was sleeping on the rear seat. The incident happened around 1.30 am on Thursday. The police said the accused was in an inebriated condition.

Johnson, who was presented in court, has been remanded in custody for 14 days. The police have impounded the bus.

The woman in her statement to the police said that as the bus was leaving Kozhikode, the accused tried to sexually assault her and backed off only after she cried out for help.

When other passengers intervened, he reportedly said that he wanted to ask her about her destination. After a ruckus was created, the bus was stopped by the wayside on the National Highway at Kakkanchery in Malappuram. The local people also intervened and the bus was taken to Thenjipalam police station. Meanwhile, stones were hurled at the bus.

The motor vehicles department had earlier slapped a fine of Rs 5,000 on the bus for violating traffic norms at Thalapady in Kasaragod.

Driver’s licence to be cancelled

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Transport Minister A K Saseendran has ordered for the cancellation of Johnson's driving licence. The minister has also sought for strict action on the woman's complaint. However, the minister said it was not possible to cancel the permit of the bus that was registered in Arunachal Pradesh.

Women’s commission files case

Meanwhile, the women's commission has, suo moto, taken case over the incident as per the instructions of its chairperson M C Josephine.

The bus owner would be summoned to the commission's head office and an explanation sought. Complaints also said that the crew had refused to halt the bus to let the passengers use the washroom during journeys. This would also be probed.

Bus services to be hit

Thiruvananthapuram: The Inter-state Bus Owners' Association would halt all services to Kerala from Monday, alleging that the Motor Vehicles Department has been wrecking their business over isolated instances.

The association said that it called for the protest after their talks with the transport minister failed. The association wanted to put a stop to the fine of up to Rs 10,000 levied from the buses, citing permit violations.

He troubled me several times’

The woman said that the driver had troubled her several times after she boarded the bus from Kannur. "He approached me thrice, with questions such as 'Have you taken the ticket?', 'Where are you getting off' and so on. He woke me up from my sleep to make these enquiries. He misbehaved with me when the bus reached Kozhikode," the woman said.

The Tamil woman further said that though she had travelled through Kerala several times, but this was her first such bad experience. The woman was heading to Madurai from Kannur. She opted for the bus journey as she could not get a flight ticket. She planned to get off at Kollam and then go to her native place.

She alleged that the bus driver's claim that he approached to ask her about her destination was false. "I had clearly told him about where I would be getting off when I boarded the bus and while taking the ticket," the woman said.

However, the accused told the police that he woke her up, assuming that her destination was Kozhikode. "I have been caught in the case simply because I am with the Kallada bus," Joseph told reporters, while he was being taken for medical examination.

After the police impounded the bus, the woman and other passengers resumed their journey in another vehicle arranged for them by the cops. At Thrissur, they were again shifted to another bus of the Kallada.

Meanwhile, the probe into brutal attack on Kallada passengers in April is yet to be completed. Three passengers of Thiruvananthapuram-Bengaluru bus were assaulted in front of the Kallada branch office at Vyttila on April 20. They were reportedly assaulted for questioning why no alternative arrangement was made after the bus broke down near Haripad in Alappuzha and the journey was delayed by three hours.

Seven of the accused in the court were granted bail by the Ernakulam sessions court. The probe officer has given a petition in the High Court, seeking to quash the bail order. Accused number 1 to 7 were given bail when the police were making arrangements for an identification parade. The probe is in its preliminary stage.

The police gave the petition to quash the bail order, pointing out that the accused may try to influence or threaten the witnesses. The Ernakulam RTO had suspended the driving licences of drivers D Kumar and Anwaruddin for a year.

Alappuzha native Ajay Ghosh, students Sachin and Akshar were at the receiving end during the horrific incident.

Passenger injured

Another alleged instance of harsh conduct by the Kallada crew has come to light. A passenger from Payyannur, Mohanan, was injured after falling off from the seat when the bus jumped a speedbreaker at Mysore in Karnataka. The crew of the bus reportedly refused to take him to a hospital and the 62-year-old man had to suffer the pain for 2.5 hours before help finally came. He had to undergo two surgeries as he had fractured a bone.

Mohan told Manorama that the bus driver approached him, seeking to hush up the incident and tried to give him money (Rs 1,000).

Mohanan's son Sudheesh recounted the incident, "The bus from Payyannur in Kannur was speeding which caused the accident. My father fell off the seat when the bus jumped a speedbreaker at 2.30am. His head had also hit the bus ceiling and he cried out in pain. However, the bus crew ignored him. When he said he wanted to use the washroom, they asked him to use a bottle instead. He had to suffer the pain till 5am. During this time, several calls were made to the Kallada office, but no one answered them. Finally, when the bus reached Madiwala in Bengaluru, I went with an ambulance and took him to the hospital. Later, they said that they would give the documents and asked us to claim an insurance. We will file a case soon."

Mohanan, undergoing treatment at the Columbia Asia Hospital at Whitefield, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, has been asked to take three-month rest.

Mohanan, who is settled in Bengaluru, was on his way back after visiting his native village in Kerala when the accident happened.

The Kallada authorities are yet to comment on the allegations.

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