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Bombay High Court disposes PIL highlighting issues of road safety in Sancoale Village

The Bombay High Court at Goa disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed highlighting the issues of road safety, including increased accidents in the Sancoale village near a particular location, that is Simpal in Sancoale village.

The petitioner has pointed out how this area is prone to accidents by placing some photographs on record.

The petitioner seeks a mandamus to the respondent to take some road safety measures at this spot, including, inter alia, placing speed breakers.

Considering the issues raised in the petition, the Division Bench of Chief Justice MS Sonak and Justice Bharat P. Deshpande think that this petition could itself be considered as a representation to the District Magistrate, South Goa, who is the competent authority under the Motor Vehicles Act and the Rules for directing the placement of speed breakers.

The Advocate General pointed out that the District Magistrate has to act in consultation with the Superintendent of Police (respondent no.3).

“Accordingly, it would be appropriate if the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police consider this petition as representation and take a decision on the petitioners’ prayers as expeditiously as possible and, in any case, within a maximum of two months from today”, the Bench directed.

The petitioner stated that he will also assist the two authorities and place necessary statistics details before them. The District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police should accordingly give an appointment to the petitioners and consider their suggestions in the matter , the Bench further directed.

Zeller De Sousa pointed out that the Panchayats have no authority to place speed breakers on the road and, therefore, the prayer for mandamus against the Panchayat is misconceived.

De Sousa may be justified in making this submission, but still, the High Court feels that the Panchayat on its own should have been more proactive if, indeed, this spot is accident-prone, as alleged by the petitioner. It is the duty of the Panchayat to ensure that there is traffic safety so that the respondents are not victims of road accidents.

“Further, what was quite disturbing were the photographs placed on record by the petitioner, which show stray cattle on the roads and near the spot. Certainly, it is the duty of the Panchayat to deal with the menace of stray cattle. It appears that sufficient steps are not being taken to address this issue of stray cattle. There is no point in perpetually remaining in a state of denial on such an issue.”

Recently, the Court has issued several directions to the Panchayats on the issue of stray cattle management.

Athnain Naik, the petitioner in person, is requested to furnish an authenticated copy of this order to the Panchayat of Sancoale so that this Panchayat complies with the directives even though such directives may or may not have been directly addressed to this particular Panchayat. The directions are general and are meant to be complied with by the Panchayats within whose jurisdictional limits there is any problem of stray cattle.

The Panchayat members must also give an appointment to Athnain Naik and other petitioners so that they can explain the problem to the other members, and the Panchayat must take all possible steps to ensure that the roads within their jurisdiction do not have stray cattle which pose serious hazards to traffic safety and the cattle themselves. The Panchayats cannot avoid such duties by pointing out defects in a prayer clause in a Public Interest Litigation , the Bench observed.

The Court directed that the director of the Panchayat must also require this Panchayat to submit at least quarterly reports each year regarding the steps taken by this Panchayat on the issue of stray cattle on the public roads.

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