A law enacted in 1949,which was seldom put to use,has become a potent tool to act against the civic authorities for the bad conditions of the roads in the cities and towns across Maharashtra. The relatively lesser-known legislation Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation Act,1949 provides for compensation and penalty for damages caused by the civic authorities negligence.
Ten young lawyers from 10 districts,including Pune and Nagpur,have filed complaints under the Act before their respective District Magistrates about the bad conditions of roads in their towns. Before filing the complaints earlier this week,the lawyers conducted a study for over a month and documented a series of accidents caused by potholes. The complainants have named their respective municipal commissioners as accused and complaints made by locals about the increasing menace of potholes have also been attached. The magistrates have now begun issuing notices to the respective commissionerates.
In Mumbai,it is easy to catch the attention of the judiciary and local administration. But it is tough in smaller cities like ours where one has to struggle to even get heard, said 28-year-old Pune-based lawyer Vikas Shinde,who is associated with NGO Sahyog Trust that works on socio-legal issues. Under this law,the judicial magistrate can hold a commissioner responsible for disservice and can direct her or him to carry out work in a time-bound manner, Shinde added.
The 10 districts where the survey was done were Pune,Kolhapur,Sangli,Solapur,Nashik,Jalgaon,Latur,Akola,Nagpur and Aurangabad. In all the districts,several accidents were caused by bad roads and their number increased during monsoon.
The idea to invoke the law and connecting the problem of bad roads with human rights was mooted by Sahyog Trusts Asim Sarode. Bad roads connect directly with the concept of good governance. The most important condition of social justice and human rights is to have good governance at place. However,with faulty tender system,non-accountable road contractors and absence of any pre-monsoon planning,the irresponsible civic bodies faltered year after year causing a great deal of problems to common people, Sarode said.