Mumbai Floods: Bombay HC asks BMC, Maharashtra govt to file responses on two separate PILs
Expressing anguish over the death of renowned gastroenterologist Dr Deepak Amrapurkar in the Mumbai deluge, the Bombay High Court has asked Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) or BrihanMumbai Municipal Corp (BMC) and other respondents to file replies on open manholes in the city. In another case, the Bench has asked BMC, the state government and Maharashtra State Pollution Board to file their reply on the issue of discharge of untreated sewage water into Mithi River.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA) through advocates Sujay Kantawala and Ashish Mehta. It was taken up for urgent hearing before a division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice NM Jamdar.
"We are very much pained that such an eminent doctor had to meet such a tragic and painful death. But there's a limit for PILs. You can become emotional, I cannot," said Chief Justice Chellur.
The PIL sought a first information report (FIR) to be lodged against BMC officials and a compensation of Rs50 lakh to be paid by the BMC to any charitable institution or non-governmental organisation (NGO). However, the Court asked FRTWA to file private complaint at an appropriate forum in both matters.
The Court, however, agreed to examine other issues of public interest in the petition, including setting up an advisory committee of former bureaucrats and technocrats to make a detailed survey of all manholes and suggest ways and means to streamline their working.
The FRTWA has also demanded that the BMC declare its policy on the working and operations of manholes so that people can understand whether it is sufficiently effective to deal with fatal accidents.
FRTWA Counsel Kantawala also wanted that until the pendency of the case, the BMC should fit iron grills on a war footing on all the manholes and the drainage system of Mumbai, so that even if they were open or unattended, they can prevent a fall into the open drainage leading to death.
The HC directed the BMC, the Maharashtra government and the Urban Development Department and other respondents to file their affidavits and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.
Rescuers located the body of 58-year-old Dr Amrapurkar, a senior gastroenterologist with Bombay Hospital, who went missing from Tuesday evening after falling into an open manhole on Senapati Bapat Marg, a kilometre away from his Prabhadevi residence.
After the floodwaters receded, his body was found two days later from the rocky beach at Worli seashore and identified by his Rado watch.
Just before he fell, he had called his wife, Anjali Amrapurkar, a pathologist, saying he would reach home in five to 10 minutes.
On Tuesday, Mumbai notched over 330mm rainfall -- the highest since the great Mumbai floods of July 2005. Dr Amrapurkar was among the at least 10 casualties of the deluge.
Separately, hearing other PIL, the HC had asked government to file their affidavits in reply to the contentions of petitioner, Citizen Circle for Social Welfare and Education, an NGO. Advocate Shehzad Naqvi, counsel for the NGO, informed the Court about how sewage water is discharged from the vicinity of the slums and industrial units situated near the Mithi River. He also showed photos of the same to the Bench.
Responding to this, the Counsel for BMC informed the Court that the Supreme Court has dealt with the issue of cleaning of the Mithi River. However, Chief Justice Chellur remarked that this PIL deals with a much broader issue, which is discharge of untreated sewage into the Mithi River and in the Arabian Sea.