Gujarat HC Seeks Action Taken Report on Morbi Bridge Collapse Investigation

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Gujarat HC Seeks Action Taken Report on Morbi Bridge Collapse Investigation

| Updated: June 20, 2024 18:36

The Gujarat High Court has directed the state government to submit an Action Taken Report (ATR) detailing the steps taken against officials of the Morbi municipality. This move comes after lapses were found in the investigation following the tragic bridge collapse in October 2022, which claimed 135 lives.

The high court also discussed the compensation proposed by the Oreva Group for the victims and their families. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Pranav Trivedi noted that despite a report submitted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on October 9, 2023, the government had not provided a report on the actions taken against the erring officials. The SIT report had highlighted the inaction of the then-chief officer of the Morbi municipality, among others.

Chief Justice Agarwal emphasized, “When we say ‘action taken report,’ we are clearly focusing on the action taken against the Nagarpalika officers.”

Advocate General Kamal Trivedi acknowledged that the government had previously informed the court about some actions taken but assured that they would provide a detailed submission. He clarified that the earlier submissions were made before the SIT report dated October 9, 2023, and the government would now file a fresh report on all actions taken until the present date.

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

The Gujarat HC also addressed the compensation and rehabilitation proposal put forth by the Oreva Group. The group proposed a monthly payment of ₹12,000 to every surviving victim and the kin of the deceased. Additionally, the Oreva Group agreed to cover educational expenses for children who were orphaned or lost a parent in the incident. The court instructed the Oreva Group’s trust to establish a mechanism to implement these payments.

The court questioned the Oreva Group’s trust, asking, “What method have you worked out to make these payments?” and directed them to devise a mechanism for the same.

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

In an affidavit submitted to the court, an individual who lost two relatives in the bridge collapse 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.

The petitioner sought court directives for individualized compensation, suggesting ₹2 crore for each deceased’s kin, ₹50 lakh for victims with permanent disabilities, and ₹20 lakh for those injured. Additionally, the petitioner 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.

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