Railway and rescue workers gather around a site where a portion of a pedestrian footbridge collapsed over a railway track in Mumbai in July 3, 2018.  / AFP PHOTO / Punit PARANJPE
Railway and rescue workers gather around a site where a portion of a pedestrian footbridge collapsed over a railway track in Mumbai in July 3, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Punit PARANJPE

Mumbai: Taking note of the recent bridge collapse incident in Andheri, the Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Railways and the BMC to ‘seriously’ conduct audits of nearly 487 old and new bridges in the city. The court has also asked the Maharashtra government to consider coming up with a ‘planned development’ policy for Mumbai, on the lines of Navi Mumbai, keeping in mind the demands of future generations.

The division bench of Justices Naresh Patil and Girish Kulkarni said, “We want you to conduct an audit of all old and new bridges in the city with a serious approach and in a time-bound manner. We do not want a situation where a bridge collapses in front of a moving train.” Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh, appearing for the railways, said the authorities have been conducting audits of all bridges at ‘regular’ intervals.

Taking a dig at the ASG’s submissions, Justice Patil said, “Despite your audits, bridges in the city are falling one-by-one. We do not want incidents like the recent bridge fall to repeat.” The bench accordingly directed the ASG to constitute a team under a senior official, including general managers of different railway zones, to work on the audit of all Foot-Over-Bridges (FOBs) and Road-Over-Bridges (ROBs).

The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Thane-based activist Vikrant Tawade through advocate VP Patil highlighting the failure of authorities, which led to the tragic stampede at Elphinstone road station last year. The judges also referred to waterlogging issues, especially the submergence of tracks, leading to a delay or cancellation of train services. The judges reiterated their suggestion of raising the height of tracks to avoid getting submerged.

ASG Singh submitted that even after raising the height, tracks would remain submerged due to the ‘poor’ cleaning work of drainage systems by BMC. The bench also harped on the ever-swelling population in Mumbai, which is leading to innumerable difficulties.

“Firstly, there is no proper alternate transport system available for citizens. The Metro is being introduced only now. Secondly, the city is getting overcrowded and congested because of the ever-increasing footfalls it receives daily. People from all over the country are coming to Mumbai in search of jobs, leading to congestion. The government must do something in this light,” Justice Patil said.

The bench further directed the authorities to consider introducing the water transport system in the city, to reduce the burden on local trains. “Consider introducing water transport in the city since it is surrounded by sea. This would prove helpful in diverting commuters from train transport,” Justice Patil said. Posting the matter for further hearing after three weeks, the bench directed the authorities to file their say in response to queries raised by the judges.

BMC management has Bombay High Court in splits

Asia’s richest corporation – the BMC — became a ‘laughing stock’ in the Bombay High Court on Thursday. This, after a counsel representing BMC claimed that the civic body’s Disaster Management Department was one of the ‘best’ in the city, in fact in the nation. The otherwise ‘silent’ courtroom of Justices Naresh Patil and Girish Kulkarni, burst out laughing after BMC made the boisterous claim. Even the Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh could not control his laughter. Interestingly, the bench too was seen smirking at the BMC counsel’s submission. Justice Kulkarni asked, “Who certified your department as the best?” before breaking out in another bout of laughter.

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