Mumbai Rains: Fed up with potholes? Here's what you can do, according to Bombay High Court

Jul 17, 2018, 12:36 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Holding more than 260 agencies across the state responsible for the state of roads, the Bombay High Court has asked state to create a grievance redressal mechanism

Mumbai Rains: Fed up with potholes? Here's what you can do, according to Bombay High Court
Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

The alarming condition of roads across the state has forced the Bombay High Court to take it upon itself to monitor the work of civic corporations and agencies from across Maharashtra that have failed to resolve the endemic problem of potholes.

The high court has now passed an order giving step-by-step guidelines to all agencies concerned, namely, BMC, MMRDA, CIDCO, PWD (260 different agencies and civic corporations were made party to the case), directing them to get a public grievance mechanism in place, and submit reports, which will be directly monitored by the high court. The court has said it wants to see progress on the guidelines before the next hearing date of July 24. The division bench of Justice P N Deshmukh and Justice A S Oka had passed the order on April 12 this year, which was uploaded only last week.

BMC workers seen filling up potholes near Mehboob Studio in Bandra with paver blocks that it had disallowed for the purpose two years ago. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
BMC workers seen filling up potholes near Mehboob Studio in Bandra with paver blocks that it had disallowed for the purpose two years ago. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Judge's letter becomes PIL
It was a letter by sitting HC judge, Justice Gautam Patel, on July 24, 2013, that had set events in motion. The letter addressed to the Chief Justice, made references to news items in newspapers on the large number of potholes on the roads, and the traffic accidents and casualties of two-wheeler riders owing to this. The court took cognizance of the letter on July 29, 2013, and initiated a suo motu PIL by issuing notices to various parties.

The PIL noted the poor condition of roads in the areas in the jurisdiction of municipal corporations and municipal councils in the state. The petition took note of the hardships and inconvenience caused to citizens because of bad roads.

Authorities say
Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta was unwilling to comment on the order. He said, "As the matter is in court, I will be unable to comment at the moment. Also, I will have to go through the order first." Lokesh Chandra, managing director, CIDCO, said, "I will have to check the order and only then will I be able to comment." MMRDA Commissioner R A Rajeev said, "I have not seen the Bombay High Court order yet, but we are responsible for ensuring that all roads under MMRDA are pothole free, and we are monitoring the same."

Jamshed Mistry

Jamshed Mistry, amicus curae
"The authorities are well aware of the problem as this matter has been in court since 2013, and all these agencies were party to this PIL. It is incumbent on them to ensure preventive measures and that good quality of roads and footpaths are provided to citizens to avoid mishaps due to potholes and bad roads, especially during the monsoon. The division bench of the high court has repeatedly told the agencies and authorities that the appropriate technology for road building is available and should be used to ensure that such problems do not recur," he said. He said the court has given July 24 as the next hearing date and expects there to be some progress on all these points.

Obligations of the traffic police
One of the several reasons for traffic congestions on streets is their pathetic condition. Whenever there is traffic congestion on account of the bad condition of the streets, it is the duty of the traffic police to communicate the same to the local authority concerned so that it takes immediate measures. It cannot be disputed that it is the legal obligation of the traffic police to ensure that such traffic congestion is avoided and to bring the bad condition of streets to the notice of the authorities concerned.

Court also said
On visually impaired: The order clearly states precautions shall be taken by authorities concerned to protect the rights of visually impaired persons as observed in the body of this judgment. On open manholes: The Municipal Corporations and other authorities shall take all possible steps to ensure that there are no manholes left unprotected without erecting barricades or warning lights and warnings for visually impaired, too.

Directions to state
The state government shall take appropriate policy decisions on the terms and conditions to be incorporated in road contracts which will ensure quality and durability of work carried out.

The state shall also take appropriate policy decisions of laying down technical specifications of the streets and footways, and specifications of material and methods to be used for construction or repair of streets. A policy decision shall be taken by the state government on this aspect within three months from the date on which the judgment is uploaded and directions issued to all local authorities concerned within one month thereafter.

Court guidelines
The court order (copy with this paper) states:
* All Corporations, and the state government shall maintain all streets, roads, footpaths within their jurisdictions in good condition, properly levelled and surfaced and potholes and ditches are properly filled in. The work of filling potholes shall be carried out scientifically.
* While granting permissions to various authorities to dig the streets, authorities must ensure prominent display at the work site of (a) name and address of the agency, (b) the extent of digging permitted, and (c) the period which the work shall be completed.
* A grievance redress mechanism headed by competent officers must be set up to enable citizens to file complaints (a) in writing at designated centres and offices; (b) through dedicated toll free number/s; (c) through dedicated website; and (d) via mobile phone messages
* System to track action taken on complaints received shall be made available.
* The state and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation shall also consider whether complaints can be received on a website www.voiceofcitizents.doc - The mechanism provided must be widely publicised in all leading newspapers, at strategic locations on major streets, in various ward offices and other major offices as well as on electronic media on or before August 1, 2018

Also read: Mumbai Rains: Potholes have led to over 25 deaths this monsoon

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