Mumbai: Raising concern over pedestrian safety due to open manholes, the Bombay High Court said on Tuesday that officer concerned of the Brihanmumbai Mumbai Corporation (BMC) will be held responsible in case any person falls in an open manholes.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Abhay Ahuja said that in the event a person falls into a manhole then the court could not ask an aggrieved person to file a civil suit seeking compensation.
However, the court also appreciated the efforts put in by the BMC.
"Good you (BMC) are working but till then if harm is caused to anyone, we will hold you responsible. We are appreciating the BMC but what happens if a manhole is open and someone falls down?" asked CJ Datta. “In such a situation, we won't ask the aggrieved person to initiate a civil suit ...we will say that your officers are responsible," he added.
The court made the observation while hearing a contempt plea filed by advocate Ruju Thakker regarding wilful non-compliance by municipal corporations in the state with the court’s 2018 judgment in a public interest litigation (PIL) on fixing roads.
BMC counsel Anil Sakhare informed the judges that they are addressing the issue of open manholes on a war footing and ensuring that all manholes are covered.
During the hearing, the judges suggested that the civic body use technology and come up with a permanent solution to the chronic problem of open manholes. Sensors could be used which would set off an alarm in case anyone tried to remove the manholes.
The civic body has time and again claimed that they cover manholes when informed about it, but the covers of these are stolen by miscreants.
CJ Datta said, “In this day of modern technology, why don’t you devise something that if someone touches a manhole cover, tampers with the cover, you get to know immediately in your office? Why not something like a sensor?”
Asking the corporation to have a Standard Operation Procedure to address the issue, the judges further suggested that iron grills can be installed below manhole covers. Also, only the BMC, bein the implementing authority, can suggest an appropriate solution, said court.
“Solution has to be provided by you. What should be the appropriate solution for this, you tell us. We need permanent measures. You must do some progressive thinking. It is your job,” said CJ Datta, adding: “We cannot keep saying what needs to be done.”
The HC has kept the matter for hearing on December 19.
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