A Bombay High Court Bench comprising of Justice A.S. Oka and Justice C.V. Bhadang in a recent order observed that citizens have a Fundamental Right to good roads and it is the State Government’s statutory obligation to maintain the roads.
The directions were given during the hearing of a suo motu Public Interest Litigation taken up by the High Court in 2013.
The Court directed BMC, Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Mumbai Port Trust and others to ensure that the potholes are taken care of before the onset of monsoon. The Bench asked them to submit a compliance report by July 6.
Further, a direction was issued to provide a mechanism to enable the citizens to file complaints about poor maintenance of roads. As of now the BMC has a helpline that operates for just four months (June 7-Oct 7). This, the court held, was not correct.
"The facility of receiving complaints shall be made throughout the year. Websites shall be designed in such a way that citizens can upload photos of the roads and also track their complaints," the court said.
The Court observed, "It is high time that all concerned clearly understand that the right to have properly maintained roads is a part of fundamental rights guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India and in the event any loss is caused due to its violation, the citizens have a right to seek compensation.”
The Court hence directed, "All municipal corporations shall maintain all roads within its jurisdiction in good and proper condition. It shall be their responsibility to ensure that potholes and ditches are properly filled, and at the time of any repair work a board shall be displayed giving details of the name of agency doing the digging work and the time period within which the work shall be completed.”
The Court refused to accept the authorities’ excuse that the roads are full of potholes due to heavy rains. “Very heavy rains during monsoon are one of the excuses given by the authorities in Mumbai and Thane Districts. Such excuse is not available as there is a heavy downpour every year and all the authorities are under an obligation to deal with the situation created by heavy downpour in these two districts,” the Court said.
The Court said that the information regarding name of the agency which is doing the excavation work, the extent of excavations permitted and the period within which the work has to be completed should be displayed besides containing the outer limit within which the road will be restored to its original condition.
The matter will now be heard on July 10.