Potholes Deaths – A Fatal Human Rights Violation

Potholes Deaths – A Fatal Human Rights Violation

Author: Adarsh Rajesh Pandey
III Year | N.B. Thakur Law College, Nashik


Every human being has a basic right to be able to travel efficiently from one place to the other. This right is impeded by the presence of potholes on the roads. A pothole is a depression in a road surface, usually asphalt pavement, where continuous action of traffic has removed pieces of the pavement. Heavyweight vehicles such as trucks tend to get stuck in the potholes, resulting in injuries.

The local municipality and constructors are responsible for maintenance and repairs to the roads.  However, it is a common sight in India to see potholes causing obstruction to the traffic and injury to the drivers. Road accidents caused due to potholes may result in serious harm, or even death of the victim.

Number of Deaths caused due to Potholes:

According to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, 9,300 people were killed and 25,000 were injured in accidents from 2013-2017 due to potholes as well as crocodile cracks on the National Highways as well as city roads.[1]

According to the statistics from 2013 to 2017, across the country, there were 14,926 deaths due to accidents caused by potholes.[2] States like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal reported the highest number of deaths due to potholes.[3]

Reasons for Pothole Deaths:

As we are living in a highly populated country which has the population over 1.3 billion. Within this population, there are 40% who are adult to get their license for driving. According to a 2016 study by the government, every third license is ‘bogus’ or fake.[4] The corruption level is widespread, so there are many minors who drive the vehicles without getting the licenses from RTO too. 6 out of 10 people just got their license without having to undertake a proper test, according to a study covering 10 major Indian cities with high vehicle population.[5]

This is one of the reasons for pothole deaths because these untrained drivers are not able to drive properly. They can’t properly take proper precautions in front of pothole, which leads to accidents. This is also the responsibility and the lack of guidance of family members, who allow the minor to drive on the main roads and accident-prone risk zones.

The other reason pertains to the faulty construction of roads, which is done by the local Municipal Corporations and Committees, as well as other private agencies and individuals. The government of the country gives a huge amount for the construction of roads as part of city-development projects.

If these authorities are being given a huge amount, then why are there hundreds of complaints related to potholes, crocodile cracks, etc every year in the country? The reason behind the complaints is that these companies do not use the full amount from the allocated funds and buy inferior quality goods for the construction of the road. Thus, these corrupt activities lead to the problem of potholes in the city.

The lack of Municipal Corporation’s vigilance and private agencies’ laziness in renovating the older roads frequently and in due time also leads to the crocodile crack and potholes on the city roads. This impacts the increase in traffic and accidents.

Compensation as the Solution:

One of the cases which was filed in the year 1991 concerned the victim Rafeeq, a 17 years old boy who was the only child to support the chai stall business of his family.  He was riding a bicycle and got stuck in a pothole at a turning point, which led to the death of the victim. At that time, the victim’s father had registered an F.I.R against the Municipal Corporation for non-performance of their work and asked for compensation.

This case was shut in the court by saying that it was not the system’s fault, and that there wasn’t any pothole on the turning point. They even said that the child might have gotten drunk and gotten in the accident. After some years, the legal heirs got into same accident and injured and died.

Marrakar[6] correlated both the cases and filed suit against the Government (State of Kerala). After reading all the proceedings, the victim’s family got compensation of Rs. 1,71,500 and 6% interest from the date of suit till realization.

This judgement was given in the year 2007. What really is the value of compensation got after 16 years? From 1991 to 2007, the victim’s family must have endured many hardships and faced many struggles. No amount of compensation can bring back the deceased victim to the family.

Now, in this era any accident related to potholes is settled by giving compensation through the Motor Vehicles Act,1988 (Section161). Thus, through accepting the compensation from the accused municipal corporation and private agencies, we are only making the ways for them to increase the corruption in the society as well as the number of deaths caused due to their negligence in the society.

The Way Forward:

By accepting the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 we should also follow all the laws and section which are there to give justice to the common people. There are relevant provision like Section 304A (causing death due to negligence) and also Section 338 (causing grievous hurt by endangering life) under IPC.

As the citizen of the country, the kin of the deceased should file an F.I.R against the Municipal Corporation under these sections and fight till the end to get justice for the loss of precious part of the family. The victim family must make the accused party to pay for the sin, so that in future no Municipal Corporation and Private Agencies would adopt laziness in the task of repairs and malpractice in construction of the road. This fight will also help those who are weak and not confident about fighting against the high ranking authorities.


Potholes are dangerous, fatal and interfere with the human rights of citizens. The NHRC and several non-governmental organizations have time and again taken cognizance, but the fact remains that there are more potholes than smooth roads in major part of many cities of the country. The situation is far worse in rural parts. The tax paid by citizens is supposed to be used for development purposes. The Municipal authorities and private constructors must be held accountable for not providing safe roads to the people.  

[1] Kamaljit Kaur Sandhu, Over 9300 deaths, 25000 injured in 3 years due to potholes, India Today (July 24, 2018, 12:37 am) https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/over-9300-deaths-25000-injured-in-3-years-due-to-potholes-1294147-2018-07-24#:~:text=The%20government%20informed%20Parliament%20on,as%20a%20result%20of%20potholes.&text=The%20government%20on%20its%20part,safer%20transportation%20to%20road%20users.

[2] 14,926 Deaths in Road Accidents Due to Potholes Unacceptable: SC, The Quint (Dec 6, 2018, 10:39 pm) https://www.thequint.com/news/india/14926-deaths-in-road-accident-due-to-potholes-unacceptable-sc

[3] Christin Mathew Philip, Deadly pits: Potholes claimed 11,386 lives during 2013-16, The Times of India (Sep 21, 2017, 11:42 am)http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/60774243.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

[4] Every third driving licence a fake, bill to propose 1 year in jail for offenders, Hindustan Times (May 29, 2016, 3:50 pm) https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/every-third-driving-licence-a-fake-bill-to-propose-1-year-in-jail-for-offenders/story-AqNgAVtQBqy77Mi3I2NcuL.html

[5] Dipak K Dash, 6 out of 10 get driving licence without test in India: Study, Times of India (Jul 16, 2017, 03:44 am) http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/59613994.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

[6] Marrakar v/s State of Kerala, 2002 Cri L J 456

Editor: Samiksha Gupta
Founder, Editor and Writer | Leagle Samiksha

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