Ensure city is free of potholes by Thursday: HC tells BBMP

 The court was hearing a PIL petition, filed in 2015, pointing to the pathetic conditions of roads in and around Bengaluru.

The court was hearing a PIL petition, filed in 2015, pointing to the pathetic conditions of roads in and around Bengaluru.

Taking cognisance of poor conditions of roads, the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday said it expects the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to ensure that there is “zero” pothole in the city by Thursday.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice S.G. Pandit made this oral observation during the hearing of a PIL petition, filed in 2015 by Vijayan Menon and three others pointing out pathetic conditions of the roads in and around the city of Bengaluru and particularly, the menace of potholes and ditches.

“It should be zero potholes by tomorrow. It is your job and you have an entire night. How you will go about it, is left to you. Bangalore city has to be put back on its glory from every angle... If you cannot do it, then we would take a call,” the Bench observed.

“Are your officers not ashamed of this action of counting potholes,” the Bench asked when it was told to the court that around 1,600 potholes are required to filled.

Earlier, counsel for the petitioner pointed out that a few Bengalureans had lost their lives in pothole-related accidents in the city during past couple of years.

Incidentally, the Supreme Court had on Tuesday expressed shock that some States still dispute the fact that potholes have led to accidental deaths on roads across the country as the data submitted by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had stated that pothole-related accidents claimed 3,597 lives in 2017 in the country.

BBMP fails to produce records

The officials of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had a tough time on Wednesday as they could not bring to the Karnataka High Court even a single measurement book related to pothole repair works carried out in any of the 198 wards within the four-hour deadline given by the court.

This failure on the part of BBMP’s engineering department made a division pench comprising Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice S.G. Pandit to observe that ‘prima facie, it is a clear case of drawing adverse inference against the BBMP as also all its relevant officers...’

The bench, around 10.50 a.m., asked a counsel representing the BBMP to ensure production of measurement books when the court takes up a PIL petition listed at serial number 32 of the cause list.

As the officials could not bring measurement books when the bench took up the PIL, filed by Vijayan Menon and others, around 1.25 p.m., the bench took serious exception to the conduct of officials, and orally observed why the BBMP has to be entrusted with public fund and questioned whether such books are even maintained. Later, the hearing was adjourned till 2.30 p.m.

The BBMP officials could not produce measurement books even at 2.30 p.m. Its counsel said that officials carrying the records are yet to reach the court while clarifying that different contracts are given, and all the measurement books could not be collected for production.

At one stage, the bench cautioned that it may have to summon the chief secretary to ask him to take over administration of the BBMP while observing that keeping roads in good condition is not just an amenity but a necessity. The bench wondered why the BBMP was unable to produce measurement book of even one ward out of its 198 wards.

Finally, the bench adjourned further hearing till September 20 (Thursday) after giving a last chance to the BBMP to submit the measurement books and work orders of pothole repair works to the Registrar (Judicial) by 4.30 p.m. on Wednesday.

‘May not be possible to fill 1,600 in a day’

First a direction from Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara in June this year, and now the Karnataka High Court: the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike is in a tight spot over its failure to ensure that the city’s roads are free of potholes. The BBMP had less than a day to achieve this.

Officials concede this may be an impossible task. “But the work will continue all night to abide by the court's observations.”

Speaking to The Hindu , BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad said, “The work on filling potholes has been going on almost every day, except on days it rains. A standing instruction has been given to all officers to ensure the roads are pothole-free at the earliest.”

According to the BBMP, there are 1,600 more potholes left to be filled in the city. “We will take up the work through the night. It may not be possible to complete the work in just one night, but we will inform the court about it and request for a few more days’ time,” he added.

In the last few months, the BBMP has given varying numbers of the potholes in the city, but attributed it to the identification of newer potholes in different localities. In May this year, the civic body had identified 5,800 potholes and submitted a report to the chief minister.

In August, the number went up to 21,287. Officials had then claimed that they had attended to 20,169 of the identified potholes.

At present, there are 1,600 potholes in the city, as per the Palike.

An official said, “The court wanted to see the measurement book for the work done on the potholes, but as all our engineers were busy in the field, we were unable to produce it. By evening, the documents were submitted to the court,” he said.

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2022 9:59:17 am |