Kerala HC gives 'extraordinary remedies' to solve state's road woes

Kerala HC gives 'extraordinary remedies' to solve state's road woes
The pothole ridden road in Palarivattom, Kochi. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

Kochi: A recent order by the Kerala High Court, if implemented in its letter and spirit, may end Kerala's perennial road woes.

Justice Devan Ramachandran, in his order dated October 18, 2019, has directed the Kerala government as well as local self governing bodies to make all roads motorable latest by January 31, 2020.

The order was issued after hearing writ petitions filed by C P Ajithkumar of Suburban Travels and the Kerala Merchants Union in 2018.

The court has set a deadline of December 31, 2019 for the state's Public Works Department (PWD) to repair and maintain all roads managed by it. Local self government institutions have to repair roads managed by them before January 31, 2020.

The court noted that "past experience has shown us that the main reason for the abject condition of roads is that repairs and maintenance are not done in time."

"A small pot-hole or crater that appears on an otherwise good road is left unattended, thus leading it to become bigger, then crater like, finally deracinating the entire road. Any amount of causes may be cited for this, but the primary is often the indifference and callousness exhibited by the officials in charge of the roads," it said.

Kerala HC gives 'extraordinary remedies' to solve state's road woes

Noting that "Sometimes, extraordinary situations require extraordinary remedies!", the court listed out seven instructions to be strictly followed by the authorities. The court also makes it clear that the officials concerned would be held responsible if they fail to ensure that the roads are maintained in time.

Here are the seven instructions:

1. The government, PWD and the local self government institutions will repair and maintain all roads immediately to make them motorable, at least to the minimum necessary standard immediately, but not later than 31.12.2019 as far as the PWD roads are concerned and 31.01.2020 as far as the various roads under the local self government institutions are concerned.

2. The repair and maintenance work shall be carried on and completed following due procedure but under the strict and continuous supervision of the concerned and competent engineer and staff of the respective departments/institutions.

3. The primary responsibility to ensure that the repair work is done properly and that future repairs are noticed and done without delay will be on the concerned engineers/staff of the respective departments/Local Self Government Institutions and any lapse on their part in doing so would lead to necessary consequences, both under the Service Regulations and the Penal Law.

4. It will be available to any citizen and Residents Associations to bring the disrepair of any road, as also the formation of pot holes and craters, in future to the concerned Department/Institutions so that immediate action can be taken to repair it. The secretaries of the concerned Local Self Government Institutions with respect to the roads under them and the heads of the departments concerned with the other roads will be responsible personally to respond to any such information and take necessary and urgent action.

Kerala HC gives 'extraordinary remedies' to solve state's road woes
Photo: M T Vidhuraj

5. If the secretaries of the LSGIs or the heads of departments concerned encounter any issues in acting as per direction above, they will be at liberty to bring it to their controlling authorities, who will also, thereafter, be equally responsible.

6. The government should publish the list of roads which are not under the Local Self Government Institutions with the name, designation, address, phone number, e-mail and WhatsApp number of the designated officer in charge in the official website of the Public Works Department. Citizens can approach the secretaries of the local bodies to register their complaints regarding the roads under them.

7. Local Self Government Institutions should constitute a team for maintenance work for day to day basis, so that the potholes or defects in roads can be rectified immediately without waiting to let it finally destroy it.

The court listed the instructions even as making it clear that no amount of excuses or reasons of any kind can justify even the loss of one life or injury solely because of bad roads.

Kerala HC gives 'extraordinary remedies' to solve state's road woes
The pothole ridden roads in Kochi. Photo: Josekutty Panackal
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