Bengaluru

When the High Court stepped in to manage civic affairs

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Set aside a day every week for special sittings

It was a year that saw two of Bengaluru’s most contentious issues — potholes and flexes — being taken up seriously, and in many cases fixed overnight. Forcing the civic body to act was the Karnataka High Court, which set a precedent in civic administration this year.

The High Court set aside a day every week to hold a special sitting to monitor the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and hearing public interest litigations (PILs) related to potholes, stormwater drains (SWD), solid waste management (SWM) and other civic issues.

Flexes, hoardings

Among the most visible interventions of the High Court was to rid the city of hoardings and other publicity materials affecting the city’s aesthetics. The High Court sent the BBMP administration into a tizzy in August by giving a four-hour deadline to remove all illegal hoardings, banners, buntings and flexes. Hours later, the BBMP reported to the court that it had removed around 5,000 illegal banners.

Days later, the BBMP council banned all forms of advertisements — hoardings, banners, flexes, buntings, posters and even wall painting / writing — in public places for a period of one year. The BBMP had claimed that no advertisement hoarding in the city was legal as it had not issued any licence since 2016.

Under the court's watch, the cityscape witnessed a drastic change, with even the support structures for hoardings being brought down.

Potholes

The court brought another form of relief to Bengalureans when it issued a deadline to the BBMP to get rid of all potholes on the city’s roads. It noted that the civic body had been giving different numbers of potholes.

Following a few spells of rains in August, the BBMP claimed to have closed 20,169 of the 21,287 potholes. In September, it claimed to have filled 899 of 1,655 potholes. The court gave the BBMP one month’s time to fill all potholes.

In October, it castigated the civic body for failing to rid roads of potholes and appointed commissioners to inspect pothole-filling works undertaken in different parts of the city.

The BBMP later informed the court that it had issued guidelines for filling potholes based on a report submitted by the court commissioners, who had found technical flaws in the pothole-filling methodology besides finding that top engineers of the BBMP were unaware of specifications and technical procedure to be followed in execution of the work.

Garbage

Earlier, it was another city eye sore — garbage — that caught the attention of the High Court. In April, taking cognisance of littering and garbage lying on roads, the High Court first directed the civic body to not just make all the seven waste processing plants operational within a month, but also issued a series of directions holding the BBMP's zonal joint commissioners accountable for ensuring safety and operation of the plants.

It also directed the BBMP to constitute a Technical Guidance Committee comprising experts to advise on operation of the plants, technology to start bio-methanisation and composting facilities in the wards.

Only a month later, taking cognisance of rampant littering, it directed the BBMP to install at least 100 smart bins with a capacity to collect 1.5 tonnes of segregated waste, apart from 2,000 litter bins in commercial areas.

Months later, the court observed orally that the laws penalising indiscriminate dumping and littering must be effectively enforced. The BBMP not just beautified some of the black spots, but also appointed marshals to fine litterers.

Pet regulations

With the High Court taking issues related to BBMP seriously, more citizens too began to seek legal recourse. One of them was with regard to pet regulations. The BBMP was all set to implement pet licencing rules, apart from putting a cap on the number of dogs apartment dwellers could have.

Several PILs were filed questioning this, which were later disposed off by the High Court, but only after the Urban Development Department issued a notification withdrawing the BBMP (Pet dog licencing) bylaws, 2018.

Stormwater drains

Another issue that was brought to the notice of the court was the state of affairs of the city’s drains, which came into focus every time Bengaluru was inundated by even small spells of rains.

While hearing a PIL filed by Citizens Action Group that sought directions to the BBMP on effective maintenance of SWDs, the High Court expressed its displeasure over the condition of the drains in the city. It directed the civic body to work with the KSPCB and the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), besides ordering the BBMP to make a detailed, comprehensive report for cleaning and maintenance of the SWDs.

Later, the High Court suggested the BBMP clean the drains before starting the process of round-the-year maintenance of SWDs by floating tenders for use of robotic excavators.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 12:44:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/when-the-high-court-stepped-in-to-manage-civic-affairs/article25844413.ece

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