The Bombay High Court Monday directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to seek the help and expertise of the Army “by way of last resort” for the construction of a temporary foot-over bridge (FoB) at the site of the demolished Hancock bridge near Sandhurst Road station.
The court passed the direction after an inspection note was submitted by the superintending engineer, design circle (bridge), Public Works Department, stating that it was not feasible to construct the temporary FoB. The Railways had also earlier informed the court that it could not construct a temporary bridge on the site.
The PWD, along with the BMC and the Railways, had conducted a joint site inspection on June 30, after the opinion of a government expert body was sought during the last hearing. The team, however, concluded that due to “lack of space, several high tension wires existing at the proposed site and security concerns,” constructing the bridge was “impossible.”
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“A temporary solution that can be erected in three months for pedestrian crossing is not feasible. Any arrangement will need longer time period of more than 12 months, as multiple departments are involved. Time period of design, approval, tendering, execution cannot be curtailed as safety aspect of execution is necessary,” stated the note.
The civic body also said that any attempt at tweaking the current site and proposal for the FoB would prove “exorbitantly expensive,” and “not pragmatic.”
A bench of Justice Shantanu Kemkar and Justice MS Karnik, however, said that irrespective of the cost, the authorities mustn’t forget that the “safety of pedestrians couldn’t be compromised with.”
“You must exhaust all possible options and seek help from every possible expert body before dismissing the plan,” the bench said.
The High Court advised that as a last resort, the BMC should write to the Defence Ministry for help, after the BMC counsel informed the bench that consulting the Indian Army would be a “cumbersome process considering the requisite permissions to contact them.”
On the last hearing, while the Railways had told the bench that constructing a temporary bridge was not feasible, the BMC had sought a chance to revisit the proposed site and consult a third party.
The court is hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by a city resident highlighting the rise in deaths of pedestrians forced to walk across the railway tracks at Sandhurst Road after the Hancock Bridge was razed. The bench is likely to take up the matter again on July 27.