Did the Karnataka High Court just call the Bangalore Municipal Corporation irresponsible?

by Elton Gomes

The Karnataka High Court lashed out at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) after the civic body had failed to achieve the zero-pothole target. The high court on Tuesday warned the BBMP that a responsible agency could be entrusted with the work.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice S.G. Pandit held a hearing for the public interest litigation (PIL), which was filed by Vijay Menon and other residents from Koramangala.

On September 19, the Karnataka HC had directed the BBMP to fill all potholes in the city by September 20. But the BBMP requested for three additional days to complete the work. However, it later claimed to have finished only 85 percent of the work.

What has the Karnataka High Court said

“If BBMP doesn’t work, Bengaluru can’t be closed down. It is the BBMP that has to be shut down. If you don’t want to work, a responsible agency may be entrusted with the work. But that’d come at a heavy price,” Karnataka High Court’s Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari said, Times of India reported.

Justice Maheshwari further said, “BBMP officials should feel ashamed in the matter as they don’t have clarity over completing civic works,” Bangalore Mirror reported.

The high court was furious over the civic body’s failure to use the 34-day period, which was given previously, to fix potholes in the city.

Karnataka High Court warns BBMP

In September, the high court warned the BBMP that it would ask the state government to take over the civic body. The high court said this after it was informed by its counsel that the measurement books (MBs) will be prepared only after completion of the works.

“There can’t be a bigger joke. If this is the way the BBMP works, something needs to be done to take over the administration. You examine yourself where BBMP stands,” a division bench of Chief Justice Maheshwari and Justice S.G. Pandit told V. Sreenidhi, the BBMP’s counsel, the New Indian Express reported.

According to the BBMP’s data, there are only 1,685 potholes on 93,000 roads. However, resident welfare associations and experts feel that the numbers are incorrect and highly underestimated.

Traffic expert Prof M.N. Sreehari blamed the BBMP engineers for the condition of roads. “Filling potholes or maintaining roads is a routine process but engineers make it a seasonal activity. Also, they do it like patch work. BBMP engineers haven’t assessed the number of potholes in Bengaluru. There are a lot of potholes and filling them scientifically needs more time,” Sreehari told the New Indian Express.

BBMP engineers’ response

Engineers from the BBMP felt that it was practically impossible to fill all potholes within a day. This came after the Karnataka High Court, in September, told BBMP officials to fill all potholes within a day.

One of the BBMP engineers, on the condition of anonymity, spoke to the New Indian Express, explaining the reasons. He said, “There are many reasons — Bengaluru roads are busy most of the time in the day, which means we get time only during night. The bitumin mixture which has to be filled, has to be heated up for a minimum eight hours, only then it will be able to stick to the base, otherwise it will come out. It has to undergo many processes to get filled. We need minimum one week to fill potholes, provided there is no rain.”

BBMP commissioner Manjunath Prasad said that the civic body had been doing its job on a routine basis. Prasad said, “If there are potholes on the road that come under defect liability period, the concerned asphalt contractor has to fill it. Else, we outsource it to the contractor who will fill potholes. We find it difficult only when it rains, otherwise our people are doing it on a routine basis,” as per the New Indian Express report.

Karnataka High Court sets up commission to inspect potholes in Karnataka

After the BBMP missed its September 24 deadline to fill all potholes, Karnataka High Court’s Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari decided to set up a two-member commission to inspect the areas where the BBMP had claimed to have filled all potholes.

The commission comprises of Dinesh Agarwal, commander works engineers of the Military Engineering Services (MES), and Uma MA, member secretary of the Karnataka Legal Services Authority.

They have been instructed by the chief justice to submit a brief report to attain quick understanding on the matter.

Recent media reports suggest that the BBMP has claimed that it is yet to fill 628 potholes on roads within the city limits. Although the high court had given time to the civic body, it seems like the BBMP is set to miss another deadline.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius

BBMPBengaluruHigh CourtKarnataka