Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday embarrassed the Maharashtra government by taking a dig at its endeavour to make ‘smart cities.’ The court observed that no city can become smart unless its roads and footpaths are in a good and reasonable condition.
The court, accordingly, has directed the State government along with the local authorities to ensure good quality roads before the onset of monsoon. A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Pradeep Deshmukh said, “We are aware of the government’s endeavour to make smart cities. However, we are of the view that no city can become smart unless its roads and footpaths are in a good and reasonable condition.”
“We are of the considered opinion that it is the fundamental right of citizens to have roads and footpaths in a reasonable and good condition. The government, we believe, is under legal and constitutional obligation to ensure that this fundamental right is not violated,” Justice Oka observed.
The judges were dictating orders in a suo motu (on its own) Public Interest Litigation taken up after considering the pothole scarred roads in Mumbai. The PIL’s scope was further extended to the entire State. The judges noted that amenities such as roads and footpaths are not made keeping in mind the issues faced by the visually impaired persons.
The judges accordingly directed the government to ensure that the fundamental right to equality of the visually impaired citizens is not violated. The judges further said, “We understand that it is not possible for the municipal corporations or other concerned authorities to be aware of the potholes, or poor conditioned roads in their jurisdiction. We believe the traffic police, who come across such roads or potholes, can inform the concerned authorities. This would save time and would ensure the road is repaired in time.”
“Apart from this, we direct the government to develop a centralised mechanism wherein citizens can directly lodge their complaints regarding roads. This will exclude technical glitches as citizens cannot be expected to know as to which road falls in the jurisdiction of which authority,” Justice Oka said. During the course of hearing, the judges also referred to the tragic incident of the death of Dr. Deepak Amarapurkar, who died last year after slipping into an open manhole. “We hope the BMC and other corporations would ensure that such tragic incidents do not happen in the future. And if the manholes are left open then the concerned authorities would undertake steps to rectify the same,” Justice Oka said.
The judges also directed the government to ensure the Grievance Redressal Committee (GRC), a forum for citizens to voice their grouse of potholes, are made functional. “We think the citizens would be able to enjoy their fundamental right to have good roads only if they are allowed to voice their complaints. Thus, we direct the government to ensure these GRCs are functional,” Justice Oka said. The judges accordingly directed the government and all the corporations and other civic bodies to file their compliance report by July 21. The matter would be heard on July 24.