Rapping the Thane Collector for submitting a shoddy report on the death of a biker due to potholes in Thane on July 27, the Bombay High Court has directed for a fresh inquiry to be conducted in the accident.
A report was filed by court commissioners stating that the biker died while “trying to dodge a pothole”, however, the Collector's report states that the accident had not occurred due to pothole but due to “high speed and rash driving” by the rider.
Accident due to high speed, rash driving: Collector's report
Thane Collector Ashok Shingare’s report stated that the incident in which a biker had lost his life in July 2023 it was found that the accident had not occurred due to pothole but due to high speed and rash driving by the rider. It went on to detail the information gathered by him from the police and the municipal officers.
“Was there any inquiry conducted (by the Collector)? More concerned about police jurisdiction than finding out what happened,” said a division bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhayaya and Justice Arif Doctor.
The CJ asked: “What has he (Collector) done? He had extracted something from what was told to him by the municipal and police authority. Was he there to judge what was done. He was to conduct the inquiry. He has done nothing.”
Questions raised over report
The Collector’s report has given details of the police probe. The bench questioned whether the Collector personally verified the information or merely relied on the details given to him.
“Where is the inquiry by the Collector? Did he care to see whether the police statement was right that it was an accident? Did he care to verify all that? We are not satisfied,” the CJ said.
The Collector's report said that accident took place on “Thane-Ghodbunder Highway No. 84 which comes under the jurisdiction of Public Works Department (PWD) and the said road is made up of cement concrete and is in good condition and as per the statements given by the eye-witnesses recorded by the Police Department, the said accident did not occur due to potholes and the said accident occurred due to rash driving of the Trailer driver.”
It also went on to state that on August 31, he called the Police Inspector of Thane Crime Branch and PWD for a “detailed discussion”. As per the information received from the police sub inspector, the accident took place within the jurisdiction of Kasarvadvali police station and an FIR was registered.
The report’s findings recorded: “The accident took place on Thane - Ghodbunder Highway No. 84, the said road comes under the jurisdiction of the Public Works Department and the said road is made up of cement concrete and is in good condition… While going through the statements of the eye witness attached by the Police department which are recorded at the incident spot, the said accident has not occurred due to potholes, but was due to high speed and rash driving of the trailer driver.”
The HC was hearing a contempt petition filed by Advocate Ruju Thakker against the municipal commissions in the state for failing to abide by 2018 high court order on potholes.
Thakker informed the court that in an affidavit filed by the court commissioners and Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Commissioner, the death occurred due to a pothole.
Expressing severe displeasure with the Collector’s report, the court noted in its order: “The findings are not independent findings and not independently enquired. It could have been enquired by subordinate officers. We are not satisfied with the report.”
Additional Government pleader PP Kakade offered to file a better affidavit, to which the bench said that a better affidavit would be of no help where the independent inquiry was not conducted.
When Kakade said that a fresh inquiry would be conducted, CJ said: “Sometimes time is the essence everywhere.”
The bench then directed the Collector “to file another affidavit after conducting an enquiry either himself or depute some senior officer”.
The HC has kept the matter for hearing on November 8.