Mumbai: BMC Faces Scrutiny As Bombay High Court Demands Accountability In Footpath Accessibility Issue

Mumbai: BMC Faces Scrutiny As Bombay High Court Demands Accountability In Footpath Accessibility Issue

The bench questioned how the BMC officers supervising the bollard installation could be so "unmindful."

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 07:25 PM IST
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BMC (left) and Bombay High Court (right) |

Even as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) assured the Bombay High Court that it would maintain a 1-metre gap between two bollards set up at the entry and exit of footpaths, the court questioned how its officers were "unmindful" while supervising the installation of the bollards.

The issue of insufficient space between the bollards, making footpaths "inaccessible" to the handicapped and elderly, was brought to the attention of the Bombay High Court via email by Karan Shah, who has been wheelchair-bound since birth due to spinal muscular atrophy.

In October 2023, a bench consisting of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor took suo motu (on its own) cognizance of the issue.

BMC's new policy for footpath accessibility

During the hearing on Wednesday, BMC informed the bench that it had formulated a new policy on May 26, 2023, to enhance footpath accessibility for the handicapped and elderly. Senior advocate Anil Singh, representing the BMC, stated that the new policy would allow selective entry to motorbikes and cycles, ensuring a 1-metre (39.37 inches) distance between the two bollards. This would facilitate easy access for wheelchairs since they are slightly over 22 inches, Singh explained.

Out of 24 wards, survey completed in 12

The corporation is currently conducting surveys in all 24 wards of the city to identify such discrepancies and address them. As of now, the survey has been completed in 12 wards, Singh added.

He mentioned that it would take some time since they would need to appoint a contractor after the survey to rectify the discrepancies.

In response, the bench questioned how the BMC officers supervising the bollard installation could be so "unmindful."

"Not that the corporation has not spent money, but how can your (BMC) officers be so unmindful? Contractors, as well as the officer, should be held accountable," Chief Justice Upadhyaya said.

Court's emphasis on meticulous policy adherence

Urging the civic body to adhere to the policy meticulously, the court noted in its order, "He (Singh) submits that in all the wards of BMC, surveys are underway and reports are being prepared. Further, if any discrepancies or lacunae are found in the design or state furniture, especially used by the differently-abled, appropriate steps will be taken."

"Ensure that if such things are found, then the officer who is supervising should act," added Chief Justice Upadhyaya.

The court has also requested the BMC to file an affidavit detailing the manner in which the footpath policy is being implemented and scheduled the matter for a hearing on February 7.

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