Expressing dissatisfaction over the non-compliance of its earlier order regarding fixing of potholes on the Panvel-Indapur stretch of the National Highway 66 (Mumbai-Goa), the Bombay High Court remarked that its directives were being taken casually.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Abhay Ahuja rapped the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and directed it to fix the potholes and submit an action taken report next month.
When the NHAI claimed that it had fixed the stretch under its jurisdiction and the roads were “motorable”, the judges remarked that the photographs submitted by the petitioner proved it otherwise.
“Any road on which motor can ply, is motorable. Is that what you (NHAI) want to say?” asked CJ Datta.
The HC was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Advocate Owais Pechkar, a resident of Chiplun city who regularly commutes on the highway. The petitioner sought that steps be taken to fix potholes on the highway, which is prone to accidents. He has also pointed out that the widening of the Mumbai-Goa route has been delayed by several years.
On Oct 10, the HC had said, “We would expect the NHAI to carry out repair on the stretch between Panvel and Indapur so as to prevent further casualty.” If any incident of casualty arising out of poor road conditions is brought to our notice, the same will be strongly dealt with, it had added.
To this, an affidavit was filed by NHAI Director and General Manager (Tech) Yashwant Ghotkar, which stated, “The total stretch is in motorable condition and balance repairing of potholes will be completed on war-footing.”
Contending the NHAI's claim, Mr Pechkar submitted photographs which showed that several potholes still existed on the highway. The additional affidavit filed by Mr Pechkar highlighted the issue of Bhote Ghat in Ratnagiri district, where an accident occurs almost daily due to the U-turn at the Ghat. “In last one month, there have been five serious accidents on the stretch. One of the accidents involved one LPG gas tanker. It took the authorities 19 hours to clear the accident spot,” said the petitioner.
After going through the photographs, the HC noted that since it had not given “positive direction” to the NHAI, the authority has taken the issue casually.
An affidavit was filed by the Union government informing that it has disbursed the sanctioned amount of Rs15.91 crore for the purpose of repair and maintenance of the highway. The affidavit filed by the PWD states that it has been releasing required amounts from time to time for repair and maintenance of the highway stretch which is under its jurisdiction. Till date, it has disbursed Rs8,763.8 crore
The HC has kept the PIL for hearing on January 4, 2023.