The Meghalaya High Court on Wednesday observed that care must be taken by the state to ensure that the regulation in the movement of goods vehicles on the existing Umiam bridge is not used as an excuse to inflate prices of essential commodities in local markets.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W. Diengdoh disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the High Court of Meghalaya Bar Association pertaining to the Umiam reservoir bridge across the Barapani waters.
The Bench noted that on May 4, 2022, it was the opinion of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) that the Umiam bridge required immediate attention, possibly even a replacement by a more robust construction.
An affidavit was filed on behalf of the BRO indicating that vehicles bearing a total weight in excess of 10 metric tonnes (MT) should not be allowed to ply over the bridge.
Upon such affidavit being filed by a responsible public body, the Court was apprehensive as to the ability of the existing bridge to withstand traffic and the State was called upon to take appropriate steps.
A. Kumar, Advocate-General, submitted that the State has conducted an assessment on the load-bearing capacity of the existing bridge and the scientific report obtained reveals that it can bear the weight of 20 MT vehicles on either side in tandem.
On this, the Court said that it does not have the expertise to go into the veracity of such assessment and leaves the State free to take whatever appropriate measures may be necessary so as to ensure that there is sufficient flow in the movement of traffic but that life and property are not endangered in any manner.
Quite plainly, the Court does not have the wherewithal to indicate the parameters as to the weight of the vehicles that ought to be allowed to ply and the 10 MT figure was based on the affidavit filed by the BRO.
The State said that steps have been taken to invite tenders for bolstering the existing bridge or for carrying out supporting construction which would ensure the longevity of the existing bridge.
Since the matter has now received the attention of the Court and there are newspaper reports of traffic movement on the relevant bridge being regulated, the High Court hoped that the State would take necessary further action upon obtaining appropriate advice from experts.
Therefore, the Court disposed of the PIL with a word of appreciation for the petitioner having brought the matter to the notice of the Court.