The Author of this blog is Ms. Shivani Singh of School of Law, FIMT, GGSIP University


It is said by Oscar Bimpong, author of Inspiration as wisdom for today, that the road to success can be full of potholes, traffic and mechanical breakdown but what if one of those potholes become the literal reason that stops a person from not only being successful but also being healthy or alive.Every year a lot of people lose their lives due to potholes, and the drawback in our legal system is that there are close to no provisions that proffer justice to the victims. Meanwhile the authorities responsible just pretend to be oblivious to the facts that people are dying because they neglected their job.

Potholes are the common annoyance that cost crores of rupees to the government and causes a lot of damages to the vehicles.The Supreme Court remarked that more people die in pothole-related road accidents in our cities and towns than skirmishes on the border or even in terror incidents.A report submitted by the panel placed the number of casualties in the last five years from pothole related accidents at 14,926. This figure was unacceptable, a bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur, said. The figure, was “probably more than those killed on border or by the terrorists.”[1]A good number of accidents occur because of apathy by road construction authorities. This is a serious cause of concern as a lot of lives could be saved with a few preventive measures and some serious action from the government as well as the authorities that are responsible for the maintenance of roads.


Every year India loses approximately 1,100 people to accidents caused by potholes.More than 2,000 people lost their lives in the year 2018 due to the road accidents caused by potholes and more than 4,000 people were injured in over 4,800 road accidents, according to the latest data given by the government in Parliament.Ministry of Road Transport and Highways provided figures of 2015, 2016 and 2017 and compiled data of persons killed due to potholes in road accidents. The government informed Parliament that over 9,300 people had been killed and nearly 25,000 were injured in road accidents as a result of potholes.[2]

Even though India has only 2 pc of the world’s motor vehicles but accounts for 12 pc of deaths related to traffic accidents. Longer commuting times have been shown to affect mental health by causing an increase in stress levels, sleep disturbances, fatigue and concentration problems among commuters, especially in drivers.On a broader scale, the Indian economy loses almost 3%of its GDP, amounting to Rs.55,000 crore, every year from road accidents. The poor road infrastructure needs immediate attention; else, the Indian economy could stand to lose between 7 to 22% in per capita GDP growth over the next 24 years[3].


In a lot of pothole death cases even with the enormous evidence of negligence by authorities, the civic agencies are not deemed responsible neither is the blame shared, the police continue to treat the civic authorities as innocent and ignore the fact that they are also responsible in such cases. The experts are also not sure if those responsible for poor maintenance of roads have been held responsible considering the fact that the Indian Penal Code does not have a specific provision to book anyone for fault in road or vehicle resulting in deaths. All the sections relating to road accidents – 377 (minor injuries), 378 (grievous injuries) 304A (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) - deal with only rash and negligent driving. There is a need to amend the IPC to address this as it was done in the case of section 376 (relating rape cases) by adding subsections.[4]

The authorities have to get the message that the cities are run on tax-payer’s money. Normally the person responsible for a road accident pays through insurance companies. So why not the civic bodies, given they are the principal cause of accidents? If a doctor can face legal action for malpractice or negligence, why can’t civic bodies be held responsible for road accidents that occur due to potholes caused by their negligence?[5]


The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which seeks to strengthen the Act, has attempted to address the issue of liability for road defects. For any road crash injury or death caused by defective road design and engineering, the designated authority responsible to construct and maintain the road is to be penalised with a sum capped at 1 lakh.5Good roads are a fundamental right of a citizen and the BBMP should provide compensation to citizens who suffer any loss or damage due to potholes and poor condition of roads in Bengaluru, the Karnataka High Court has ordered. It also made it clear that the Palike will award compensation after getting satisfied with such claims. “After all, citizens are taxpayers and the life of taxpayers is not so cheap” the court observed.[6]

In an important judgment, a division bench of the Bombay High Court, in an interim order passed on 20 may, 2015, held that having pothole free roads in reasonable condition is a fundamental right of citizens, which is included in Article 21 of the constitution. Also, The Bombay High Court in 2013 has ruled that the victims of road accidents and their next of kin have a right under law to claim compensation.[7]

The Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill 2017 says contractors, consultants and civic agencies will be accountable for faulty design, construction or poor maintenance of roads leading to accidents.[8]


A swerve or a sudden halt in a pothole, even at an average speed limit can dismount the pillion rider. The passenger has no control whatsoever and has huge risks of falling from the vehicle which could lead to heavy injuries and death of the person. The more important fact here is that the question of speeding in such cases is not as pertinent as the criminal liability of not maintaining the roads.

Standards are often ignored when building roads and sometimes a bad job is done to ensure that subsequent pothole repair contracts are secured as well.Roads in rural areas are most prone to fatalities owing to their poor construction in comparison to the urban areas and cities. Rohit Baluja, a road safety expert told The Times of India, “Until road-owning agencies were held accountable for maintenance and booked for negligence, the menace of potholes won’t end. We have hardly any action taken against such negligent employees/officials.”[9]

Marakkar vs State Of Kerala on 18 September, 2009[10]

Bhavadasan, J, Are the legal heirs of a person, who died as a result of an injury suffered due to the fall in the pot hole on a main road. The matter has been so elaborately considered with a view to sound a note of caution to the public authorities. They seem to remain under the impression that they cannot be made liable for their culpable acts and omissions. Things have gone to such a state that it has become necessary to issue orders from courts to the authorities concerned to repair the roads. They may have to pay for their apathy. They are alerted that unless they bestow sufficient care in discharging their social obligations, they may be in peril.


The courts have stated in many cases of pothole deaths that compensation should be granted to the victims. But the ratio between the no. of people injured due to potholes every day to the cases where justice is served to the victim is still way too low.Moreover, the compensation should not be the only form of justice served to the victims because human lives cannot be measured by a mere sum of money. It can definitely help in improving the physical condition and mitigate the immediate financial shock, however,it does nothing to improve the mental trauma suffered by the victims. In order to put a stop to these pothole injuries there should be strict provisions imposed against pothole accidents and people appointed to improve and maintain the roads periodically. Along with this, punishment and fine should be pressed on these civic authorities that neglect their duties. The enormous loss of human lives everyday due to potholes needs utmost attention.

[2]S, Kamaljit Kaur; Delhi July 24, hr; July 24, 2018UPDATED; IST, 2018 00:37. "Over 9300 deaths, 25000 injured in 3 years due to potholes"India Today.

[3]By :Jose Kurian 31st January 2020 –the real cost of potholes http://bwautoworld.businessworld.in/article/The-Real-Cost-Of-Potholes/31-01-2020-183081/

[4]Dipak K Dash | TNN | Oct 12, 2019, 00:27 ISTStates register steep decline in pothole-related deaths


[5]Mahesh Vijapurkar  Killer potholes of India: Civic bodies should have to pay up for the deaths they cause September 24, 2015 17:42:55 IST


[6] DECCAN CHRONICLE.Aug 1, 2019, 5:47 am IST Compensate pothole victims: KarnatakaHigh Courthttps://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/010819/compensate-pothole-victims-karnataka-high-court.html

[7] By: Tamanna Pankaj  Negligence by Government Authorities Leads to Loss of Life http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/2168/Negligence-by-Government-Authorities-Leads-to-Loss-of-Life.html

[8] By: Piyush Tiwari jULY 17, 2018 00:15 IST  fix the pothole problemhttps://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/fix-the-pothole-problem/article24436287.ece

[10]Marakkar vs State Of Kerala on 18 September, 2009