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Calcutta High Court takes cognisance of pathetic condition of NH4, issues notice to A&N Islands administration, NHAI, Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways

Taking suo motu cognisance of the pathetic condition of the National Highway 4 (Road) in the Middle and North Andaman, the Calcutta High Court has issued notice to the Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands; the Union Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways; the Chief Secretary of Andaman and Nicobar Administration; the National Highways Authority of India and the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, to respond by the next hearing.

The Circuit Bench at Port Blair comprising Justice Subrata Talukdar and Justice  Rabindranath Samanta observed that it is the experience of all inhabitants of Middle and North Andaman residing from Middle Strait to Mayabunder, beyond to Diglipur and the adjacent areas, that the National Highway 4 (NH-4) connecting the said areas with the capital Port Blair, is almost non-existent.

In other words, as even the Court found out, there is no visible road surface for most of the route and vehicular traffic has to negotiate perilous dirt tracks.

Justice Subrata Talukdar had the occasion to visit Middle and North Andaman being assigned on duty to the present Circuit Bench.  

The Court has been informed that the road was originally maintained by the Andaman Public Works Department (APWD).

At present, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited have been co-opted to repair and maintain the NH-4.

People of the area are struggling to find suitable means to carry patients by ambulance or by any other vehicular  method for emergency treatment to a hospital at Port Blair.

Supply trucks loaded with materials have been found toppled on dirt tracks. Some regular bus services between Middle and North Andaman touching Baratang, Kadamtala, Rangat, Billiground, Bakultala, Mayabunder and Diglipur, among others, have been suspended by operators.  

Access to justice of litigants intending to pursue their remedies in the jurisdictional Courts of their areas, as well as at Port Blair stands severely curtailed. 

The pathetic condition of the NH-4, which is the lifeline for the residents, connecting Middle and North Andaman to the rest of the Islands, has not been attended to for several months now, if not years.

To be precise, the condition of NH-4 has worsened in the past three years. In spite of efforts at the local level, no visible steps have been taken till date.

The total time taken to cover around 275 km from Port Blair to Mayuabunder is around nine hours, which is double the normal time required. The distance taken to cover about 80 km from Mayabunder to Diglipur lies in excess of four hours.   

“This Court cannot remain a passive spectator to such administrative inaction,” held the High Court.

Accordingly, this Court takes suo motu cognisance of the matter and issues notices to the following persons:

1. The Lieutenant Governor, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Port Blair -744101.
2. The Secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Transport Bhawan, 1, Parliament Street, New Delhi-110001.
3. The Chief Secretary, Andaman and Nicobar Administration, Secretariat, Port Blair – 744101.
4. The Secretary (PWD), Andaman and Nicobar Administration, Secretariat, Port Blair – 744101
5. The Chairman, National Highways Authority of India, New Delhi.
6. The Regional Director, National Highway Authority of India, Port Blair.
7. The Managing Director, National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, 3rd Floor, PTI Building, 4-Parliament Street, New Delhi 110001.
8. The Executive Director, National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, Regional Office at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Ward No 23, Near Air Force Station, Prothrapur,
Garacharma (PO), Port Blair, A & N Islands – 744105.
9. The Deputy Commissioner, North and Middle Andaman District, Mayabunder.
10. The Chief Engineer, APWD, Nirman Bhavan, Port Blair– 744101.

The Noticees are directed to respond through their Learned Counsel on the next date.
Registry is directed to forthwith forward notice of this Order to the Noticees and file a Report on the next date.

This Court also appoints two Learned Advocates – Gopala Binnu Kumar and Deep Chaim Kabir, to act as Special Officers. The Learned Special Officers are permitted to seek inputs from the Noticees and apprise this Court on the dates fixed.

Shatadru Chakraborty, Learned Counsel appearing for the Andaman and Nicobar Administration, is also directed to take instructions. The Noticees shall endeavour to file a First Report on November 24, on which date the matter will appear at the top under the heading “Fixed”.

The learned Special Officers shall ensure that this Order is widely circulated by the Noticees/ the Administration so that to enable persons affected by the distressing situation to approach this Court with their grievances and submissions, either individually or through the Learned Special Officers.

Registry is also directed to take steps to allot a Writ Petition (PIL) number to this file. The Learned Special Officers shall be entitled to appropriate remuneration, to be fixed subsequently by the Court. Parties are permitted to act on a gist of the communication of the Order.
All parties to act in terms of a copy of the order downloaded from the official website of this Court, the order read.

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