In a landmark verdict that gives a major relief to citizens suffering from bad roads in Bengaluru and other parts of the State, the Karnataka High Court on July 31, 2019, declared that the right to have reasonably good footpaths and roads is a fundamental right of citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The court declared that in case of any injury or loss of life, citizens can seek compensation from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), as it is their statutory and constitutional duty to maintain roads and footpaths.
A Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Mohammad Nawaz passed the interim order during the hearing of a PIL petition, filed in 2015 by Vijayan Menon and three other residents of Koramangala in Bengaluru, who had complained about the failure of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike to maintain roads in proper condition.
When it is the statutory obligation of a municipal corporation to construct, repair, and maintain footpaths and roads in good condition under Section 58 of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976, the Bench said it creates a corresponding right to the citizens to enforce the obligation on the part of the city corporations.
"It is the Right of citizens to have streets in good condition. Roads have to be properly leveled so that citizens can comfortably travel. Maintaining of roads and keeping them pothole-free is part of larger obligatory functions of the civic body. Citizens are taxpayers and life is not cheap that civic body will not perform their obligatory duties. For which, either someone has to lose life or suffer injury,” the court said.
Citing Supreme Court judgments expanding the scope of fundamental right to life and personal liberty of the citizens, the Bench said: “if citizens are to enjoy Fundamental rights, good and safe streets can be treated as something which is needed to live a dignified life. If potholes are there on the streets, life of citizens is exposed to danger. Umpteen number of cases where accidents have happened due to potholes/bad road conditions. Two-wheeler riders are most affected. If citizens suffer due to bad condition of streets it will amount to infringement of Fundamental Right and under Public law remedy, they can seek compensation."