April 16, 2024

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Can you sue the Government for Vehicle damage due to bad conditions of roads?

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Introduction (Can you sue the Government?)

Roads are one of the most important means of transport in any country. India is one of the fastest developing countries. In India, a road network of over 6,215,797 kilometers (3,862,317 miles) exists. India holds the second-largest road network after the United States. Having a large road network doesn’t come with fewer problems. There are 228 National Highways in India. Some of the longest Highways include NH44, which extends from Srinagar to Kanyakumari. The total length of this Highway is 4,112 KM. The road network of the rural areas amounts to 72% of the total roads. District roads have a total length of 632,154 kilometers, and it amounts to 14.8% of the total roads. This article briefly discusses whether you can sue the Government for the bad condition of roads.

Who is responsible for the development of roads?

NHAI is the body of the Government that develops and manages roads. State governments are responsible for state highways. States have different corporations through which the governments monitor and manage routes. For instance, Andhra Pradesh has the Andhra Pradesh Road Development Corporation to develop and manage roads. Having one of the largest road networks, India has a poor infrastructure of roads. Only 3% of all roads are National highways in the best conditions possible.

What is the reason for the poor infrastructure of roads?

There are many reasons for the question; it primarily includes inadequate funds, poor project management, and the Government’s negligence in acting fast. India’s political system and accountability are also reasons for the poor infrastructure. Corruption exists in all parts of the system. The contract tenders of roads are misused, and the funds are misappropriated and used unacceptably.

Lack of Knowledge

People should question the usage of money by the contractors and the Government. The literature rate in India is still low, which makes it hard for people to know and ask for their rights and duties. They should be held accountable.

Effect of bad roads

Over one million kilometers of roads are poorly constructed and maintained. And almost 25% of villages have no proper road links. Having bad roads affect people in every possible way. Poor road systems make peoples’ lives harder.

  • Loss of Finance
  • Human Loss
  • Adverse effect on the economy

It affects the finance of the nation. We spend a lot of money on Automobiles, bad roads cause them to lose the efficiency of the vehicle. There is a significant rise in accidents due to bad roads; more than 15 million people died of road accidents in 2020. Motorists develop back pain due to the bad conditions of the roads.

Section 5 of the NHAI Act states that

5. Responsibility for the development and maintenance of national highways.—It shall be the responsibility of the Central Government to develop and maintain in proper repair all national highways; but the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, direct that any function in relation to the development or maintenance of any national highway shall, subject to such conditions, if any, as may be specified in the notification, also be exercisable by the Government of the State within which the national Highway is situated or by any officer or authority subordinate to the Central Government or to the State Government”.

Vehicle damage due to bad roads – Can you sue the Government?

You must have heard ” Bad roads make people poor”. We have also seen the effect of roads on the vehicle’s condition. Take an example of

A middle-class family spends 7 lahks on a car they wish. Due to the conditions of the roads, they lost the efficiency of their vehicle. It affects the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. In turn, it costs them around 1 lakh rupees for the repairs and service in just one year. This is the situation in India. 

K V Marakkar  Vs State Of Kerala O.P No. 18379 of 1998

In the present case, there was a 17-year-old boy named Rafeeq who fell into a pothole along the curve of the road on 18.07.1991 while he was riding his bicycle. The boy died on 20.07.1991. The Defendants were the municipal corporation of that area. The defendants argued that the boy fell into that pothole due to his negligence. The Honorable Court raised three questions in the following Issue

i) Was the death of Rafeeq a result of the injury suffered by falling in the pothole on the road as alleged by the plaintiffs?

ii) Are the defendants responsible for the said incident?

iii) What is the compensation due to the plaintiffs?

The court awarded the relief as follows: 

  1. Therefore a sum of INR 10,000/- is given towards the pain and suffering of the family. 
  2. The plaintiffs must have incurred at least INR 5,000/- for the treatment and that amount is awarded on that account. 
  3. For the funeral expenses, a sum of INR 2,500/- is granted. 
  4. For the loss of estate Rs. 10,000/- is granted and a sum of INR 1,71,500/- is granted.

Darshan & Ors V Union of India WP No. 656 of 1995

The Honorable High Court of Delhi allowed the said petition. It is a case where a man named Satkar Singh died falling into a manhole. The petitioners of the instant petition are the wife and children of the deceased. The defendants were the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Union. The defendants included the Public Works Department of the Delhi Administration in the case. They stated that PWDDA was responsible for the manhole being open. The court held the defendants liable and awarded the petitioners, a compensation of INR 2 lakh with an interest of 12% per annum.

Who is liable for vehicle damage due to bad roads?

The maintenance of roads is the duty of the Municipal Corporation. Any accident due to the roads can be said to be their negligence. There exists vicarious liability between the corporation and the Government. So can you sue the Government as it is vicariously liable?

Law of Torts: Breach of Duty

According to the Law of Torts, negligence is the breach of duty caused by any one of the following:

 (a) the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or

 (b) The commission of (the act of doing) something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.

A tort is a civil wrong. The Government can be said to be negligent in maintaining roads only if you could prove that it knows about the bad conditions. If your vehicle damage is damaged due to the dire conditions of the roads, you should first click a picture of the road. Then, get your vehicle checked by the authorized service center and get a report from them that states that it is an outcome of the bad condition of the roads. Debris can also be said as the negligence of the Government. Debris like metal pieces, wood, and dust on the road should be cleaned from time to time by the Government. If not, you can claim the damages. You can sue the Government for the damages. You need to have the proper record of the road, the witnesses, and the complaints made to the concerned departments. If these are satisfied, you can sue the Government for the bad condition of the roads.

Vicarious liability

Vicarious liability is the liability of some person for the acts of another. The Superior is liable for the actions of his agent. This is vicarious liability. Same way, the Government is responsible for the acts or negligence of the Corporations. But, General damages can be claimed only if the plaintiff can prove that the damage caused to him is due to the bad condition of the road.


The Corporation is directly responsible for the negligent maintenance of roads in the Area. If the vehicles get damaged due to the streets, the victim can sue the Government and gain the necessary compensation. We can make the Corporation do its work in the right way. If you are suffering, don’t wait for someone to do the work. Go for it and remember that it is your right and the Corporation’s duty to complete the job. Negligence is carelessness. Don’t let it capture valuable lives. The Government should take appropriate steps to clear the mistakes in the road system.


  • Koushik Chittella

    This snippet is penned by an enthusiastic learner " Koushik Chittella" who is pursuing his 4th year law degree from Dr. Ambedkar Global Law Institute , Tirupati.

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