The Bombay high court on Friday said while it was pained by the death of a senior doctor, who fell into an open manhole while wading through water-logged streets in Mumbai, it cannot consider a public interest litigation seeking lodging of an first information report against civic officials and award of compensation.
The HC said these matters cannot be considered in a PIL and the relatives of the doctor should file a separate plea or complaint before the correct forum.
The court said it can consider prayers drawing attention to safety concerns over potholes and manholes and directed the Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to file affidavits responding to these issue.
A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N M Jamdar was hearing the public interest litigation filed by Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association Mumbai seeking that officials of the BMC be booked for causing death of a person due to negligence.
The PIL also sought compensation of Rs 50 lakh for the family of the victim.
The body of Dr Deepak Amarapukar, who had gone missing on Tuesday following heavy rains in the megapolis, was recovered on Thursday from a nullah near the Coast Guard office in central Mumbai's Worli.
Amrapurkar was a gastroenterologist at the city-based Bombay Hospital.
"We are also very much pained that such an excellent doctor had to meet such a tragic end. But we cannot become emotional. In a public interest litigation there are certain limitations. Prayers seeking the authorities attention to issues of potholes and manholes can be heard by us in this PIL," Chief Justice Chellur said.
But prayers seeking case to be registered under section 304 (II) of Indian Penal Code and compensation cannot be considered in a PIL. Let the relatives of the doctor file a separate plea or complaint before the correct forum for this, she said.
The court noted that in the present case the situation is not that the family of the victim is poor or not educated.
The court has posted the petition for hearing after two weeks.
The petition sought the court to constitute 'an advisory committee of ex-bureaucrats and technocrats for carrying out an inspection of all manholes in the city and to help form a policy to avoid such fatal incidents in future'.
'It is apparent that only on account of the gross negligence on the part of BMC and its officers, the victim was deprived of his life,' the PIL alleged.
There were no sign boards, no barricading near the manhole cautioning the public at large about the prevailing danger, it said.
It was the legal duty of the BMC and the state to protect and safeguard such areas where work is in progress after taking into consideration the locality, the density of the population, the frequency of the visitors, and so on, the PIL said.
'The corporation and the state are under a legal obligation to take care of, and protect all citizens from accidents,' the plea contended.