×
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Vadodara boat tragedy: Inquiry report tries to protect then civic chief, says displeased Gujarat HC

Twelve students and two teachers were killed when a boat capsized in Motnath lake in Harni on January 18. The division bench of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Pranav Trivedi is hearing a suo motu PIL on the incident.
Last Updated : 27 June 2024, 16:03 IST

Follow Us :

Comments

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Thursday expressed displeasure on an inquiry report submitted by the state government in the Harni lake tragedy in Vadodara and said it tries to protect the then municipal commissioner despite a probe panel finding him at fault.

Twelve students and two teachers were killed when a boat capsized in Motnath lake in Harni on January 18. The division bench of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Pranav Trivedi is hearing a suo motu PIL on the incident.

"It is a kind of report where there is an effort to protect the then municipal commissioner of Vadodara. Though the committee found fault, it seeks to sideline the role of the commissioner," said Chief Justice Agarwal after going through the inquiry report submitted by the state Urban Development and Urban Housing Department in a sealed cover on Thursday.

The Vadodara Municipal Corporation had awarded a contract to maintain and operate the lakefront project to Kotia Projects, whose partners were subsequently arrested.

During a hearing on April 25, the bench had ordered a departmental inquiry against then Vadodara municipal commissioner in connection with the incident after observing that he appeared to have illegally granted the contract in 2015-16 for Harni Motnath lakefront project to Kotia Projects.

As per the incumbency chart of civic chiefs on the VMC website, HS Patel was the municipal commissioner during February 25, 2015 and June 23, 2016. He was succeeded by Dr Vinod Rao, who held the post from June 24, 2016 to July 17, 2018.

Since Advocate General Kamal Trivedi hasn't gone through the report, the bench ordered that he be given a copy. It kept the next hearing in the case on July 4.

On a recommendation of the inquiry committee that strict qualification criteria must be introduced across the state for new tenders of such nature, CJ Agarwal took exception saying "this was not the scope of inquiry".

Citing the report, the bench noted that though Kotia Projects was disqualified when the VMC invited Expression of Interest to develop the lakefront for the first time, it was eventually awarded the contract in the second attempt when tenders were invited.

Advocate General Trivedi told the bench Kotia Projects was not considered in the first attempt because it lacked both financial and technical competence.

The bench also cited a discrepancy in the terms and conditions mentioned by VMC while inviting the EOI and tender.

"The EOI document said the contractor can enter into a collaboration with other entities but the tender said joint venture is not permitted. So a single bidder was chosen who was earlier disqualified. Kotia Projects relied on the expertise of other parties, and yet the proposal was cleared by the officials," said the bench while going through the report.

Citing the report, the CJ further pointed out that the municipal commissioner (MC) does have the power to "review, reverse or rescind" such proposals sent by the technical committee of the civic bodies but it depends on other factors and commissioners "usually believe in technical members".

"So, once the technical committee approves something, the commissioner is helpless. The report suggests the MC did nothing wrong. So MC will keep his eyes and ears closed before signing...If this approach persists, we are in a difficult situation," noted Chief Justice Agarwal.

ADVERTISEMENT
Published 27 June 2024, 16:03 IST

Follow us on :

Follow Us

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT