Pothole-riddled roads are a common sight in Bengaluru and over the years, the city has witnessed numerous pothole-related deaths. In a relief to commuters plying these dangerous roads with craters, the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday passed an interim order stating that Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials would be held responsible for accidents due to potholes. The court also said that the BBMP would be liable to pay compensation to victims or their families who incur losses due to these hazardous roads.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by Koramangala resident Vijayan Menon, who had petitioned that the BBMP be held responsible for accidents caused due to potholes and had also stated that victims of such accidents have a right to compensation.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka along with Justice PM Nawaz observed that tax-paying citizens are at a high risk of getting injured due to the bad condition of the roads. Prior to the judgement, victims had to move the court to seek compensation. In order to avoid going to court over the issue, the judges held that an aggrieved party can directly approach the civic body for compensation.
“The scope of Article 21 has been expanded by the Supreme Court. Every citizen has a right to meaningful and dignified life and good roads are absolutely necessary. Ensuring pothole-free roads is a legal and constitutional obligation of the BBMP,” Justice Oka observed.
On Tuesday, the High Court had rapped the BBMP officials for not maintaining the city’s roads properly. The BBMP also told the court that the pothole filling works are being carried out regularly, to which the court had demanded a status report.
The BBMP had submitted to the court that out of 85,430 roads spanning 13,694 km, only 2,695 roads across 897 km had potholes in them. Of these 2,695 roads with potholes, the Palike said that 108 are arterial roads with a length of 401 km, while the remaining are 2,587 are other roads with bylanes.
Delivering an interim order on Wednesday, the bench has instructed the BBMP to set up a grievance redressal mechanism by creating a mobile app to lodge complaints. The court also directed the BBMP to inform each and every complainant about action taken in each case.
The court also stated that ward committees and the traffic police must come together and monitor the condition of the roads. The court has directed the ward committees to conduct regular checks of roads in their respective localities and report inadequacies to the traffic police and the BBMP.
Ward committees have also been instructed to keep tabs on Bescom, BWSSB (Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board), KPTCL (Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited) and other agencies, which regularly dig up roads for maintenance work. The committees have been instructed to write reports and submit it to BBMP, which will then have to take necessary measures to ensure that the roads are free of potholes.
The court has also said that the ward committee reports on the condition of roads must be submitted at the end of each month to the BBMP commissioner, who in turn, will submit the gist of such reports to the court. The next hearing is on September 9, 2019, where the court will examine the status reports of the ward committees.