Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Utility duct on highways, roads: Supreme Court issues notice on PIL seeking directions to Centre

The court will hear the matter after 4 weeks.

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The Supreme Court has issued notice on a PIL seeking directions to the government to compulsorily provide common utility duct for all public utilities in the construction plan of highways and other roadways and implement 2016 guidelines issued by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH). 

The bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian has directed the Centre to file its reply on a plea which has also sought directions to the government to ensure that all public utility service providers to mandatorily use the facilities and avoid unnecessary re-digging/trenching of roadways. 

During the hearing on Wednesday, CJI Bobde said, “We will hear this. It is a good idea,” while issuing the notice. The petition has been filed by Harapriya Patel through Advocate-On-Record Anirudh Sanganeria. 

The PIL further seeks direction to the Centre to implement the guidelines dated 22.11.2016 issued by MoRTH and National Digital Communications Policy 2018 which contemplate common utility ducts and corresponding regulations.

The petition stated that the cost of laying Fibre Optic Cables by re-digging and duplicating the road is approximately Rs 2.25 Crore for 100 Km. This hefty expense could be saved by providing constructed pit along the roads. These pits can be constructed by the road authorities without extra/minimal/negligible expenditure at the time of construction of the road itself and the optical fiber cable can be pulled/laid through it. Hence by this way a huge amount of money can be saved, and the government can utilize it for other public works such as education, health and other benevolent works and also generate additional revenue by levy of annual fee from the telecom operators. In addition to it the day-to-day maintenance expenditure of cable maintenance due to continuous road expansion and other ancillary work can be reduced to a large extent.

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The PIL also mentions that the economic ramifications of duplication of civil work and damage to roadways on account of re-digging and trenching is not considered which account for substantial loss of public money.

The court will hear this matter after 4 weeks.

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