The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra Government to consider Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner Iqbal Chahal’s suggestion of handing over all the roads in Greater Mumbai to the civic body for their better upkeep and maintenance.
Hearing a contempt matter related to the bad condition of roads, the court found Chahal’s proposal “appealing” while considering it from the aspect of coordination, monitoring, upkeep and maintenance of the roads.
“…holistic view has to be adopted by the concerned authorities in ensuring that potholes and bad road conditions do not become a cause for damage to life and limb and consequent despair for the human kind in future,” the court said.
The division bench of the Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik also said it expects the civic body to complete concretization work on all its roads within 30 months. The total length of the roads under BMC is 2050 kms and cement concretization is complete on around 990 kms.
It passed the order on a contempt application filed by Advocate Ruju Thakkar in a suo motu PIL on the poor condition of roads in the state. Thakkar submitted that there was no improvement at the ground level despite an authoritative judgement of the Bombay HC on the issue in 2018.
She blamed “erring contractors” not being made accountable for various deaths within and outside city limits due to potholes.
In response and on the court’s request, the BMC Commissioner made a detailed presentation on the municipality’s action plan for a pothole-free Mumbai. However, one of the main concerns raised by the Commissioner was that many roads within Mumbai in poor condition, are not under the BMC.
These roads are under different planning authorities like Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), Public Works Department (PWD), Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA), Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), Airport Authority of India (AAI), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Rashtriya Chemical Fertilizers (RCF), Railway Authority, Forest Authority, Navy and SRA.
“It is seen that some of the roads, not within the control of MCGM are in a bad condition,” the court noted in the order.
It agreed with the Commissioner that bringing all roads under one planning authority would be a step forward in ensuring better roads.
The order records the BMC commissioner’s submission that around 125 Kms of asphalt roads will be resurfaced with asphalt bitumen within three months.
And out of 2050kms roads, 990 kms of roads have been concretized, tenders have been awarded for concretization of the roads to the extent of 265 kms and by November tenders will be awarded for 397 kms roads. The balance length, to be improved in Phase-II, is 398 kms.
The Commissioner’s assurance of repairing the 20 worst roads was also recorded. All the potholes will be fixed immediately, Chahal told the court further.
The PWD Secretary also said the state government was also concerned about pothole-ridden roads and doing everything possible for their improvement.
“We are satisfied with the assurance that proper steps would be taken to curb the menace. The State Government and MCGM, no doubt, will audit the performance of the erring road contractors responsible for the bad road conditions. Our immediate concern is ensuring that MCGM takes urgent steps in fixing the potholes existing as on today,” the bench added.
The bench said that it would monitor the progress every two months and posted the matter for hearing on December 1, 2022.