January 29, 2021 4:37:51 am
The Gujarat High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of an accident that took place in Surat on January 19, where a dumper truck ran over migrant worker families, killing 15 of them, including eight women and a one-year-old girl, on the spot.
A public interest litigation was registered on January 27 under the cause title ‘To regulate road discipline and to give shelter to weaker section’ and notices were issued to various departments of the state government, seeking responses by February 8.
The issue was brought to the notice of a division bench headed by Chief Justice Vikram Nath on January 20 by senior counsel Anshin Desai who sought to monitor some key issues, “touching the life and liberty of the weaker sections of the society and also to deal with their valuable right to housing, right to shelter and right to life”. The court also took cognisance of a letter submitted by Desai, to register the PIL.
The court has impleaded five parties, including the chief secretary, additional chief secretaries of home department, and ports and transport department, transport department commissioner and principal secretary of labour and employment department.
The court order noted, “The headlines of today’s newspapers on the one hand highlight victory of Indian Cricket Team against Australia and on the other hand, disclose a very tragic and disturbing news which happened at Surat where an empty dumper truck ran over migrant workers, killing 15 persons on the spot…”
Desai’s letter submitted that the Constitution guarantees fundamental right to life, housing and shelter, while the state and municipal corporations “have constitutional and as well as statutory duty to provide residential accommodation to poor and indigent weaker sections by utilizing urban vacant land available under the Urban Land Ceiling Act”.
As cited in the order, Desai also submitted that given the large scale developmental projects in cities, there is a constant flux of migrants and thus “local bodies should also prepare plans….(as) migrant construction workers and their families are required to be accommodated in temporary accommodations with basic services and social infrastructure near the project sites”.
Desai proposed that private and public construction contractors, who employ these migrants, must be imposed with regulations and held responsible for ensuring basic amenities for them.
Seeking that the availability and accessibility of existing shelters for the homeless must be examined as should be the safety of children on construction sites, Desai said that other aspects, such as ensuring strict compliance to the Motor Vehicles Act, disallowing tractors with trailers in city limits and ensuring service lane discipline, also must be looked into.
The senior counsel also proposed that a system may be created whereby “a person can click a picture or pass on the number of the offending vehicle”, anonymously to the authorities to ensure immediate action against the vehicle driver and the owner. It was also proposed that instead of annual vehicle fitness certificate, “appropriate remedial measures be incorporated and directions be issued to renew fitness certificate after the vehicle runs certain kilometres, instead of yearly checking”.
“All vehicles (truck, tractor, heavy vehicles) should mandatorily carry a service book with details of last service, visit book, fitness certificate with legible name and contact details of the person certifying it to be fit… Fixing responsibility of the officer of the highest rank of the RTO in case of vehicle found to be unfit without proper function brakes, lights etc…. There are several new District Collectors and therefore responsibility should be fixed on MLA, District Collector, Deputy Collector and Mamlatdar to account for any deficiency found in the vehicle,” are some other suggestions given by Desai to fix accountability.
The division bench’s order of January 20 noted that the senior counsel “has referred to some of the aspects which go to the root of the matter”, and issued notice to the respondent parties.
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