The Kerala High Court on Thursday pulled up the concerned authorities in charge of construction and maintenance of roads as complaints of faulty roads have been pouring in since the onset of rains in the State.
Justice Devan Ramachandran was visibly enraged particularly since the Bench had given specific directions on this regard in October 2019. It noted how tragic the situation was for the directions of a High Court to be ignored.
"As usual, after the monsoons, complaints of bad roads have again started coming to this court. This is a real tragedy because in the judgement dated October 18 2019, this court had given certain specific directions and it appears that all of them have been forgotten. However, this court cannot allow the administrators and stakeholders to be so forgetful and if they are so then steps and measures will be taken to make them alive to their statutory and constitutional duties."
The Court also orally remarked:
"If the engineers do not know how to maintain the roads in the city, they should just resign. If the department lacks skilled engineers, there is an abundance of qualified people out there; give them an opportunity."
The Court then asked the responsible authorities how they managed to remain unbothered when the issue of roads falling into disrepair keeps cropping up every year.
"If you are monitoring roads continuously, do you not notice when it gets damaged? This level of damage does not happen in one day. Can engineers not see this themselves when they pass by. Will they only take action after someone falls and dies? Do you not feel shame seeing and hearing this, because I certainly feel ashamed having to say this. How long has this been going on?"
In an attempt to deal with the matter with an iron hand, the Court directed the administrators of the concerned departments to immediately take stock of various roads in the State and take measures to ensure that responsibility is fixed on the concerned officials with respect to roads that fall into disrepair immediately after maintenance and reconstruction.
The Single Judge also remarked of how there were accusations of the Court overstepping its powers:
"I know people are accusing the High Court of engaging in governance. But what else are we supposed to do when you miserably fail at what you're expected to do. This year we didn't have much flood damage but I will have to start worrying about floods again soon. How long can we keep doing this? Why have you not realised that this is something that citizens need?"
The Court was adjudicating upon one of its longest pending writ petitions moved in 2008 seeking directions to the concerned authorities to ensure the maintenance of the roads they construct.
In its previous judgement, the Court had fixed the primary responsibility on the concerned engineers/staff of the respective departments/ local self-government institutions to ensure that repair work is done properly and future repair works are noticed and done without any delay. However, it appears to have been a futile attempt.
Amici curiae Advocates S Krishna and Tom K Thomas appearing for the petitioner today pointed out that the exasperating situation is that the very same road which is repaired by the corporation and by the other authorities last year are still falling into disrepair in a few months thereafter.
As such, the matter adjourned to be heard again on 14th December 14 by which time any interested party was given the liberty to provide inputs to the Court regarding roads in the State.
Case Title: CP Ajithkumar v State of Kerala & Ors.