The Kerala High Court slammed Kochi Corporation authorities for not taking sufficient efforts of making the city safe for every citizen.

The bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran underlined the urgent need to tackle the situation after the amicus curiae reported to the Court an incident of a child falling into a deep drain that was not properly barricaded or closed and observed that "The absolute imperative of making the city safe for every citizen - be that, young, old or the infirm - has now attained acme proportion, with this one incident. Unless we act now, the day would not be far where we would have to see the full consequences of such an incident. This is unthinkable!"

The Court expressed its concern and said that it was relieved that the child did not sustain any serious injury even though the drain was large enough to have caused grave consequences. The court held that "As we have seen in this case, the victim is a small child, who would not know the pitfall that faced him, while he was walking happily with his parents, yesterday evening. The drain in question is large enough for him to have drowned; and when he fell it was also possible that he could have hit against it, to cause serious injury. As I said before, it is pure God's grace that this has not happened."

The Court also observed that though the sight of open drains and pits is very common in Kochi but this cannot be a justification to turn a blind eye to it. Moreover, it is important to make the streets safe for the people. The Court said that "'Operation Footpath' was an idea that this Court muted several months ago. I have been saying it consistently that a city in which citizens cannot walk, is not worthy to be called such."

The Court took up the matter urgently and directed the Secretary of the Corporation of Kochi, Babu Abdul Kader to appear before it.

The Secretary appeared before the Court and unreservedly apologized for the incident. He submitted that the Corporation is taking every measure in terms of the directions of this Court, to make the pedestrian areas safer in Kochi and apprised the Court of the fact that the whole process requires time, effort and money and money is scarcely available with the corporation.

The Secretary further assured that within the next two weeks, all the open drains, pits and such others, will either be slabbed – as far as possible; or will be barricaded and kept away from harm, even to a child or to a senior citizen.

The Court also listed the Writ petition filed in 2018 along with it, wherein a committee was constituted under the Chairmanship of the District Collector, who is also the Head of the Disaster Management Authority, to oversee the issue of the Perandoor Canal and the drainage system of the city, and said that the current incident was also one that would come within the sweep of the Disaster Management Authority Act.

The Court further issued the following directions-

  • that all open drains, pits and others in the pedestrian areas of the city will either be properly slabbed; or barricaded and protected, within two weeks from today.
  • The Committee constituted under the 2018 petition will oversee this action and will also conduct a Security Audit, simultaneously or thereafter, concerning the pedestrian areas of this city and a report to be submitted in this regard.

Cause Title- CP Ajithkumar & Anr. v. State of Kerala & Ors.

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