Expressing its anguish over the death of renowned gastroenterologist Deepak Amarapurkar in the Mumbai deluge, the Bombay High Court on Friday ordered the BMC and other respondents to file replies on open manholes in the city.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by the Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA) through advocates Sujay Kantawala and Ashish Mehta. It was taken up for urgent hearing before a division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N.M. Jamdar.
“We are very much pained that such an eminent doctor had to meet such a tragic and painful death. But there’s a limit for PILs. You can become emotional, I cannot,” said Chief Justice Chellur.
The PIL sought a FIR to be lodged against BMC officials and a compensation of Rs 5 million to be paid by the BMC to any charitable institution or NGO.
The court agreed to examine other issues of public interest in the petition, including setting up an advisory committee of former bureaucrats and technocrats to make a detailed survey of all manholes and suggest ways and means to streamline their working.
The FRTWA has also demanded that the BMC declare its policy on the working and operations of manholes so that people can understand whether it is sufficiently effective to deal with fatal accidents.
Kantawala also wanted that until the pendency of the case, the BMC should fit iron grills on a war footing on all the manholes and the drainage system of Mumbai, so that even if they were open or unattended, they can prevent a fall into the open drainage leading to death.
The court directed the BMC, the Maharashtra government and the Urban Development Department and other respondents to file their affidavits and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.
Rescuers located the body of 58-year-old Amarapurkar, a senior gastroenterologist with Bombay Hospital who went missing from Tuesday evening after falling into an open manhole on Senapati Bapat Marg, a kilometre away from his Prabhadevi residence.
After the floodwaters receded, his body was found two days later from the rocky beach at Worli seashore and identified by his Rado watch.
Just before he fell, he had called his wife, Anjali Amarapurkar, a pathologist, saying he would reach home in five to 10 minutes.
On Tuesday, Mumbai notched over 330 mm rainfall — the highest since the great Mumbai floods of July 2005. Amarapurkar was among the at least 10 casualties of the deluge.