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Bombay HC directs BMC to file affidavit on open manholes

Expressing pain over the death of a doctor who died after slipping into an open manhole on Tuesday, the day the city was battered by rain, the Bombay High Court directed the city’s civic body to file an affidavit on the issue of potholes and open manholes.

A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N M Jamdar was hearing a PIL filed by Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association, Mumbai seeking booking of officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for causing the death due to negligence.

The PIL also sought a compensation of Rs 50 lakh for the family of the victim.

The body of Dr Deepak Amarapukar, who had gone missing on Tuesday following heavy rains in the megapolis, was recovered Thursday from a nullah near the Coast Guard office in central Mumbai’s Worli.

Amrapurkar was a gastroenterologist at the city-based Bombay hospital.

The court today noted that while it was pained by the untimely death of the doctor, it cannot consider the matter in a public interest litigation prayer seeking FIR to be lodged against civic officials and compensation be awarded.

“We are also very much pained that such an excellent doctor had to meet such a tragic end. But we cannot become emotional. In a public interest litigation there are certain limitations. Prayers seeking the authorities’ attention to issues of potholes and manholes can be heard by us in this PIL,” Chief Justice Chellur said.

“But prayers seeking case to be registered under section 304 (II) of IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and compensation cannot be considered in a PIL. Let the relatives of the doctor file a separate plea or complaint before the correct forum for this,” she said.

The court noted that in the present case the situation is not that the family of the victim is poor or not educated.

The court directed the state government and BMC to file their affidavits in response to the other prayers about potholes and manholes.

The court has posted the petition for hearing after two weeks.

The petition prayed the court to constitute an advisory committee of ex-bureaucrats and technocrats for inspection of all manholes in the city and to help draft a policy to avoid such fatal incidents in future.

“It is apparent that only on account of the gross negligence on the part of BMC and its officers, the victim was deprived of his life,” the PIL alleged.

There were no sign boards, no barricading near the manhole cautioning the public at large about the danger. It was the legal duty of the BMC and the state to protect and safeguard such areas where work in progress after taking into consideration the locality, the density of the population, the frequency of the visitors, and so on, it said.

“The corporation and the state are under a legal obligation to take care of, and protect all citizens from accidents,” the plea contended.

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