Morbi Bridge Collapse: Gujarat HC Seeks Action Taken Report from Govt

Morbi Bridge Collapse

The Gujarat High Court has directed the state government to provide a report on actions taken against the office-bearers of Morbi municipality following the SIT’s identification of lapses after the October 2022 bridge collapse, which resulted in the deaths of 135 people.

A bench of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Pranav Trivedi observed that the government has not yet submitted an Action Taken Report (ATR) despite the SIT highlighting shortcomings by the Morbi Nagarpalika’s office-bearers, including its former chief officer.

In a related development, a petitioner, who lost two relatives in the bridge collapse, approached the High Court seeking directives for the repair and restoration of the historic British-era structure. The petitioner also requested specific compensation measures.

Chief Justice Criticizes Delay in ATR Submission

During the hearing of a suo motu PIL, Chief Justice Agarwal highlighted the state government’s delay in submitting an ATR post the SIT’s findings on lapses by Morbi Nagarpalika’s officials, including the then chief officer. The SIT submitted its final report on October 9, 2023.

Chief Justice Agarwal emphasized that the government must file an ATR against those responsible for negligence as identified by the SIT.

Responding to queries regarding actions taken based on the SIT report, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi assured the court that the ATR would be submitted soon. The court had previously directed the government to submit this report, specifically focusing on the lapses identified by the SIT.

Compensation and Rehabilitation Measures

Additionally, the court addressed the compensation and rehabilitation proposal from the Oreva Group, which includes monthly payments of Rs 12,000 to surviving victims and families of deceased victims. The group also agreed to cover educational expenses for children who lost parents. The court directed the Oreva Group’s trust to establish a mechanism for these payments.

Chief Justice Agarwal queried the government about the method devised for making these payments and directed the trust to develop a mechanism accordingly.

The suspension bridge, dating back to the British era and spanning the Machchhu river in Morbi town, collapsed on October 30, 2022, resulting in the tragic deaths of 135 individuals, including women and children, with 56 others injured.

In an affidavit submitted to Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal, Dilip Chavda urged for the repair and restoration of the bridge by a technical team from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Chavda’s affidavit was part of the suo motu PIL related to the Morbi bridge collapse.

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

Chavda further sought court directives for individualized compensation, proposing Rs 2 crore for each deceased person’s family, Rs 50 lakh for victims with permanent disabilities, and Rs 20 lakh for those injured. He criticized the current uniform compensation approach.

Arrests and Charges

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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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte