The Bombay High Court on Wednesday gave a last chance to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and State Government to complete by December 31, 2024, the widening of the National Highway 66 (NH66) which connects Mumbai to Goa, and emphasised that any failure to complete the same would be taken “seriously” and may amount to “contempt”.
"Such projects cause inconvenience to public and escalates the budget"
The bench also emphasised that delay in such infrastructure projects causes inconvenience to the public and escalates the budget has to be ultimately borne by the state exchequer.
The counsels for the NHAI and State assured the court that the widening of the entire NH66, which is divided in 10 stretches, will be completed by December 31, 2024.
“Assurances are given on the basis of affidavit by NHAI and Public Works Department (PWD)… and accordingly any deviation in the form of any delay in timeline will be viewed by court seriously which may amount to contempt.” Said a division bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor.
HC was hearing PIL by Chiplun resident
The HC was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by Chiplun resident advocate Owais Pechkar, who regularly commutes on NH66, highlighting the bad state of the highway and sought durations to the authorities to complete the widening and repair of the highway expeditiously.
The NHAI and the PWD had undertaken widening and repair work of the highway in 2011 and the same was to be completed hu 2020. However, over the years, the deadline has been extended from time to time.
The court noted that “Even after a gap of 13 long years, till date the road widening and other repair works are not completed”. “Delay in such infrastructure projects not only causes problems to the population, which uses such roads but ultimately comes as a burden to the state exchequer,” the bench said. “ Any delay in such execution projects necessarily entails ever rising construction costs which ultimately has to be borne by the public at large.”
Delay due to termination of certain contractors & arbitration proceedings
NHAI counsel Kevic Setalvad said that the delay has been due to termination of certain contractors and arbitration proceedings, but assured that their work should be completed by the year end.
State advocate PP Kakade said that work on three of the ten packages has been completed and the remaining too shall be completed by the year end.
Following the assurances, the chief justice, in a lighter vein, said: “on January 1, 2025, you (state) are hiring a bus, Volvo or Limousine, and taking us all to Goa by bus.”