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Submit 'Action Taken Report' in aftermath of Morbi bridge collapse: Gujarat HC to state govt

Chief Justice Agarwal said the government should file an ATR against erring persons as the SIT highlighted inaction on their part.
Last Updated : 19 June 2024, 12:19 IST

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Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday directed the state government to submit a report on the action taken against the office-bearers of Morbi municipality as the SIT highlighted lapses in the aftermath of the collapse of a bridge in October 2022 which killed 135 people.

The division bench of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Pranav Trivedi noted the government has not yet submitted an Action Taken Report (ATR) after a Special Investigation Team (SIT) highlighted lapses by office-bearers of Morbi Nagarpalika including its then-chief officer.

Meanwhile, a man who lost two relatives in the bridge collapse has moved the HC, seeking its direction for repairing and restoring the heritage British-era structure, and directives for individualised compensation, While hearing a suo motu PIL, Chief Justice Agarwal noted that the state government has yet to submit an ATR following the SIT findings on lapses by Morbi Nagarpalika office-bearers, including its then chief officer. The SIT's final report was submitted on October 9, 2023.

Chief Justice Agarwal said the government should file an ATR against erring persons as the SIT highlighted inaction on their part.

When questioned about the actions taken based on the SIT report, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi assured the court that the ATR would be presented soon. The court had previously directed the government to submit this report, especially highlighting the lapses identified by the SIT.

The court also addressed the Oreva Group's compensation and rehabilitation proposal, which includes a monthly payment of Rs 12,000 to every surviving victim and the kin of deceased victims. Additionally, the group agreed to cover educational expenses for orphaned children or those who lost a parent. The court instructed the Oreva Group’s trust to establish a mechanism to implement these payments.

Chief Justice Agarwal said that the government should file a report on the action taken against erring persons especially as the SIT cited inaction on their part.

"What method have you worked out to make this payment?" the court asked, before directing the trust to work out a mechanism.

The British-era suspension bridge on the Machchhu river in Morbi town collapsed on October 30, 2022, killing 135 persons, including several women and children, and injuring 56 others.

Dilip Chavda, in an affidavit submitted to Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal, urged that the repair and restoration of the bridge be undertaken by a technical team from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The affidavit was part of a suo motu PIL concerning the Morbi bridge collapse.

Chavda demanded that the cost of repairs be borne by the Oreva Group, responsible for the bridge’s operation and maintenance, as well as state authorities, including the district administration and Morbi municipality. He argued that the bridge, a public asset, should not have been managed as private property.

"The Morbi bridge was a property of the public at large and was not a private property of either of the concerned respondents that they could deal with it in a manner of their choice ...The concerned respondents are absolutely liable for the operation and maintenance of the bridge," the plea stated.

Furthermore, Chavda sought court directives for individualised compensation, suggesting Rs 2 crore for each deceased’s kin, Rs 50 lakh for victims with permanent disabilities, and Rs 20 lakh for those injured. He criticised the current uniform compensation approach.

Ten individuals, including Oreva Group CMD Jaysukh Patel, two managers, sub-contractors, security guards, and ticket booking clerks, have been arrested and charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

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Published 19 June 2024, 12:19 IST

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