Continuing the heinous string of sexual crimes against children, a bus cleaner molested a 3-year-old girl while she was being dropped at home in the school bus last week, cops said. The cleaner was arrested after the child’s family registered a molestation case against him. In a similar incident on January 18, a bus driver was arrested for molesting a schoolgirl in a Juhu-based school’s bus.
The victim in the recent case studies in a playgroup at a Malad school. The accused, Sandip Pandurang Mandale (24), was employed as a bus cleaner for seven months. He lives in Santacruz near Shastri Nagar with his family. Police sources said that on the afternoon of February 20, the accused kissed the child on the lips and touched her inappropriately when she was alone in the bus. The incident occurred when the children were being dropped back home around noon after school.
According to police, the same day in the evening, the child kissed her father the same way, surprising her parents who asked her where she had learnt to kiss like that. She promptly replied “bus uncle”. On February 21, the victim’s family approached Malad police station and registered a first information report against the cleaner. After investigating, police arrested Sandip when he showed up for duty at Malad.
“A lady attendant was present at the time but she denied seeing any such thing. The accused is not co-operating with us, and we have no eyewitness till now,” said inspector Raja Ram Probhu from Malad police station. Police said the victim was too young to recollect the entire incident accurately. “We can’t pressurise her for giving us a statement,” officers said. The accused has been booked under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult modesty) of the IPC and Sections 4, 8 and 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.