"The right to life as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India includes a right to live a meaningful and dignified life. After all, the footways or footpaths are provided so that the citizens can comfortably walk from one place to another. The streets are provided for the citizens so that they can travel comfortably by using vehicles. If there are potholes on the footpaths or on the streets, or if the same are not in good condition, the life of the citizens is exposed to danger."
In a major blow to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, a division bench of the Supreme Court refused to interfere with the Karnataka High Court's verdict, asking the corporation to compensate all the victims of road accidents that were caused due to poor condition of the roads.
The division bench of Justices RF Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat on Thursday dismissed the SLP filed by BBMP against the high court order.
While disposing of a PIL filed by one Vijay Menon in 2015, the high court had directed the BBMP to fulfill its statutory obligation under Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, 1976, to maintain public streets by carrying out repairs and improvement thereto.
In its order dated July 31, 2019, the high court held that the right to have proper streets, including footways, was an essential part of the fundamental rights conferred on the citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution. It thus refused to entertain BBMP's defence of sovereign immunity.
"The defence of sovereign immunity being inapplicable, and alien to the concept of guarantee of fundamental rights, there can be no question of such a defence being available in the constitutional remedy," the high court had held.
With these observations, BBMP was directed to award a reasonable compensation to all citizens who suffered loss or damage arising out of an accident caused due to poor condition of the street or footpath.
"The citizens have a right to seek a reasonable compensation from the State or its agencies which are responsible for violating the fundamental rights by taking a recourse to a remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution of India…If only because of the failure of the Municipal Authorities to perform their elementary obligation of maintaining the streets in a proper condition, if somebody is deprived of his/her life or suffers injury, it will give a cause of action to claim compensation," the high court had held.
As a correctional measure, the high court had also asked the corporation to set up a grievance redressal mechanism, so as to enable the citizens to lodge complaints about poor condition of the streets/roads before BBMP.
The BBMP had moved the Supreme Court, stating that the order would cause unreasonable burden on the state exchequer and will also expose it to multiple litigations.
Click Here To Download HC Order
Click Here To Download SC Order