(Photo by Bhushan Koyande)
(Photo by Bhushan Koyande)

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday took serious note of the blame game that has ensued between the Western Railways and the BMC over the Andheri bridge collapse. After the division bench of Justices Naresh Patil and Girish Kulkarni slammed the BMC for its apathy, the civic body defended itself saying it was not their responsibility that the bridge had collapsed. At this, the division bench took them to task.

“On the one hand, people are losing their lives and, on the other hand, agencies are playing a blame game. This is not appropriate,” said an irate bench.  The judges held the BMC responsible for the upkeep of civic amenities, which they said brings them directly in contact with citizens. Therefore, it was not appropriate of the BMC administration to shrug off its responsibility.

“Bridges are collapsing and the corporation is not able to do anything because it has not bothered to carry out audits. The corporation should carry out regular audits of all bridges and inform the authority concerned,” the bench said. The division bench also questioned the BMC as to why elected representatives and ward officials are never held responsible for such mishaps.

In their respective arguments, both the BMC and the Railways said the collapsed portion was not in their jurisdiction. It was pointed out that though the bridge had been constructed by the BMC, it pays a fees to the railways for maintenance and upkeep of the section which hovers over the railway tracks. At this point, the judges observed, the Railways is not a foreign agency, so there is no question of a conflict in jurisdiction.

The judges asked both the authorities, why are suburban local services the only lifeline of Mumbai city? The division bench asked the state government to look at alternative means of transport, even while the Mumbai metro is under construction. Judge Patil recommended that the State should seriously consider making sea transport a practical and viable option. The petition was filed by Smita Dhruv from Mumbai Mahila Congress. The next hearing will be on July 12, when the court has asked Advocate General, Additional Solicitor General and railway advocates to remain present.

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