NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed concern over the alarming number of deaths on Indian roads due to potholes, the number being far in excess of those killed by terrorists and on the border, and said the authorities concerned should be held accountable for it and compensation paid to the family of every such victim.
Calling it “unacceptable” and “frightening”, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta sought response from the Centre on how to address the problem, after consulting the state governments.
Potholes claimed nearly 10 lives every day with total deaths at 3,597 in 2017, a more than 50% rise over the toll for 2016. The magnitude of can be understood from the fact that terror attacks in India, including Naxalite strikes, killed 803, including terrorists, security personnel and civilians, in 2017.
Advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, told the bench that the SC-appointed committee on road safety had compiled data which showed as many as 14,936 deaths due to potholes in last five years (2013 to 2017).
“This is obviously a very high number and it indicates that the authorities concerned-whether they are municipal corporations or state governments or National Highway Authority of India or other such bodies or organisations— are not maintaining roads effectively. It is not at all acceptable that such a large number of deaths take place due to potholes on roads. To add to the problem, there is no provision for grant of compensation to the legal representatives of the victims who have to live with an unforeseen tragedy which arises only due to lack of concern by the authorities. There is also, unfortunately, no criminal action taken against the authorities concerned for their negligence,” the bench said.
“We would like the response of the Union of India whose response should be in consultation with all the state governments /UTs to remedy the situation and provide succour to the relatives of the victims whose death is caused due to pothole accidents,” it said.
The court had earlier expressed similar concern and directed the states and UTs to set up road safety committee in each district comprising superintendent of police and officer from departments like health, PWD, NHAI, road transport and member of the civil society to take measures to prevent road accidents. It had also directed states to set up trauma centre in each district for quick care of accident victims besides mandatory audit of roads on safety parameters.
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