Blames residents for keeping manhole near his house open
The counsel appearing for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) told the Bombay High Court on Tuesday that Dr. Deepak Amrapurkar’s death last year was a result of residents keeping the manhole next to his house open, and not because of any fault on the BMC’s part.
Danger to citizens
Dr. Amrapurkar, 58, a gastroenterologist at Bombay Hospital, died after falling into a manhole near Prabhadevi during the heavy rain on August 29 last year. The Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) about the danger manholes posed to residents during the rainy season.
Advocate Sujay Kantawala, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, said, “Heavy rains are already fast approaching, while more than 1,350 SWD manholes remain open all over Mumbai, even though the BMC had promised to finish the work [to install protective steel grilles on manholes] by May 15.”
Senior counsel Anil Sakhre, representing the BMC, said, “I assure the court in good faith that the work is being implemented. Dr. Amrapurkar’s death was because residents kept the manhole near his house open, and not due to any fault of the BMC.”
Two chief engineers from the Storm Water Drain and Sewerage Operation departments filed an affidavit on behalf of the corporation. It said that on December 28 last year, the administration approved a proposal to provide mild steel protective grilles for 1,425 storm water drain manholes in flood-prone areas. Two days later, e-tenders were invited for the work, with January 9 as the last date.
The proposal to allot the work to the lowest bidders was forwarded to the standing committee on January 25, which approved it on February 7. The letter of intent was issued to the successful bidders on February 16. Since then, the affidavit says, the contractors have installed protective grilles beneath the covers of 72 manholes in F/S and D wards.
A Division Bench of Justices Ranjit More and Anubha Prabhudesai, said, “We do not want a repeat of Dr. Amrapurkar’s unfortunate demise.” It directed the BMC to file an updated status report on the number of protective grilles fitted underneath manholes till date.
In the last hearing, the BMC had told the court that even if a manhole cover was removed, a safety net would prevent accidents. The matter has been kept for further hearing on June 21.