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Morbi bridge tragedy: Guj HC directs Oreva Group to caretake the victims, orphans

The tragedy that jolted the whole nation last year occurred in Gujarat’s Morbi on the night of Oct 30

The suspension cables of the bridge broke loose, killing at least 135

Updated: Jan 31st, 2024

Morbi Bridge Tragedy (img: File)

Updated on Jan 31, at 6.30 p.m.

The Gujarat High Court has reiterated its previous statement to the Oreva Group MD’s side to take upon themselves the upbringing and caretaking for the victims and orphans of the Morbi bridge tragedy in the hearing of the suo moto public interest litigation (PIL) on Jan 30.

The HC also notified the state government to form a trust to make sure the victims and orphans in this case are provided with the monthly compensation amount regularly.

The state government and Morbi collector were also directed by the HC to issue detailed information regarding the children who lost their parents in the Morbi bridge tragedy.

Compensation to the Morbi bridge tragedy victims

As per the HC’s direction, the state government submitted details about the heritage and all other bridges in the state.

The district collector also submitted a report on the mental and physical health of the victims.

The team conducting the report included the chief district health officer, a psychiatrist, and a resident medical officer, among others.

The findings of this report state that four of the victims are still in a disturbed mental state because of the tragedy.

They will be treated at the Morbi civil hospital, while a 44-year-old woman, unable to travel to the hospital, will be given treatment at home.

Other details in the report state that out of the 74 injured in this tragedy, 71 are said to have recovered completely.

More than 45 people among the injured are 50 years of age or older.

A total of 14 children became orphans due to this tragedy, losing one of their parents. While some also lost other members of their immediate families, as stated in the report.

Four of the ten surviving wives of the Morbi bridge tragedy victims were employed by Oreva Group, while the remaining six refuted it.

The next hearing will take place on Feb 26.

Updated on Jan 19, at 6.42 p.m.

The Supreme Court today refused to interfere with an order passed by the Gujarat High Court granting bail to a key accused in the 2022 Morbi bridge collapse incident in which 135 people died.

A bench of Justices MM Sundresh and SVN Bhatti dismissed the plea filed by a tragedy victims association challenging the grant of bail to Dinesh Dave, a manager of the Oreva company which was responsible for the bridge’s operation and maintenance.

In an order in November 2023, the High Court had allowed the successive bail application by the accused saying that Dave was following the instructions of the managing director (MD) of the company, Oreva Group, and was not involved in the decision making process.

However, the bench of Justice Nirzar S Desai had ordered Dave to “not enter into Rajkot and Morbi districts till the trial is over without prior permission of the Sessions Judge except for attending the court proceedings”.

In a report filed before the High Court, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) indicted Dave and other key personnel of the company of bearing direct accountability for the incident.

Updated on Dec 9, 2023, at 7.50 p.m.

In a hearing of a suo-motu petition in the Morbi bridge tragedy case, filed by the Gujarat HC, the state government’s action taken report in this case was presented on Dec 8.

The Oreva group's MD argued that despite pledging cooperation, they are met with a displeasing and ignorant approach whenever they reach out to the victims. The HC replied that such behaviour is justified as they have dealt with a life-altering tragedy.

Justice Sunita Agarwal, hearing this case, also reprimanded the Oreva group and stated that the company’s responsibility doesn’t end with merely paying compensation to the victims.

The judge added that after the SIT report, the accused are only heard in this court for the benefit of the victims; otherwise, there’s no ground for them to stand here.

The HC then directed the district collector to formulate a report on the required aid for the victims and job allotment to the widows, as well as monthly compensation to the widows not willing to take up the jobs, which will have to be provided by the Oreva group.

The HC also questioned the state government over the aid provided till now for the mental effects of this tragedy on the victims.

Updated on Dec 1, 2023, at 1.10 p.m.

Oreva group MD Jaysukh Patel has been denied bail by the Supreme Court in the Morbi bridge tragedy case on Nov 30.

Patel had moved to the apex court for interim bail after his plea was denied by the Gujarat High Court.

The SC has refused this bail to Patel and directed the Gujarat HC to take up this bail in the next hearing on Dec 12 and quash it.

Patel had already filed for regular bail, which is pending a hearing in the Guj HC.

Patel contested for bail on the grounds that all the other accused, including the ticket checkers, security guards, and the manager, were granted bail.

On top of that, he argued that the required investigation by the probing agencies has been concluded, and he has been in jail for the last three months.

A report released by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Oct 10 blamed the key personnel of the Oreva company, which was responsible for the bridge’s operation and maintenance.

Updated on Nov 3, 2023, 7 p.m.

Just after over a year of the unfortunate incident, Oreva Company’s manager Dinesh Dave was granted a conditional bail by Gujarat high court, with his entry prohibited in Morbi and Rajkot.

Updated on Sept 25, 2023, 8.30 p.m.

The Gujarat government today requested additional time from the high court to present the final report of the Special Investigation Team that is investigating the collapse of a suspension bridge in Morbi town in Oct 2022.

A division bench of chief justice Sunita Agarwal and justice Aniruddha Mayee has granted the government a two-week extension, emphasising that “no further adjournments will be entertained in the suo motu Public Interest Litigation that the court initiated last year following the disaster”.

The court also raised questions regarding the last-minute preparation of submissions, causing difficulties in the proceedings.

Updated on Aug 24, 2023, 2.45 p.m.

The staff of the Morbi municipality have appealed in the high court, challenging the state government’s decision to supersede the municipality after the Morbi bridge collapse on Oct 30, 2022. 

Following the unfateful incident of the bridge collapse, the state government had handed the administration over to resident additional collector (RAC), superseding the municipality.

On the other hand, the high court has also sought an explanation from the state government in this matter.

The public prosecutor for the case resigns

In another case-related development, public prosecutor SK Vora has resigned from the case, citing workload. Vora was appointed by the state government in the Morbi bridge collapse case.

Updated on Aug 9, 2023, at 1.41 p.m.

On Aug 8, the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, consisting of the chief justice of India (CJI), DY Chandrachud, refused intervention in the Gujarat HC’s order to grant bail to the two ticket checkers, Mansukhbhai Valjibhai Topiya and Madevbhai Solanki, in the Morbi bridge collapse case which occurred on Oct 30, 2022.

The Gujarat HC on June 6 granted regular bail to the two ticket-checking personnel, stating that the investigation is over and the judicial custody of both the accused is not required. 

The Morbi bridge case

The Gujarat high court took suo moto cognizance in the Morbi bridge collapse on Nov 7 and asked the state government to submit a report on the tragedy.

The Gujarat high court rejected the Oreva group’s proposal to pay ₹5 lakh to each victim’s kin and ₹1 lakh to the injured. The HC directed them to pay ₹10 lakh to the victim’s kin and ₹2 lakh to the injured, and ordered the company to deposit ₹5 cr within four weeks of the order passed on Feb 22.

The high court has granted bail to five of the ten accused in the Morbi bridge accident. These include three accused security guards in May and two accused ticket clerks on June 6. Following these bails being granted, two key accused - Jaysukh Patel and Dinesh Dave have also approached the high court seeking bail.

Role of Oreva group’s Jaysukh Patel

The contract for the renovation of the bridge was given to Jaysukh Patel’s Oreva group seven months before the disaster. ‘Jhulto pul’, the hanging bridge was reopened for the public on Oct 26, coinciding with the Gujarati new year, or ‘Bestu Varas’.

Right after the Morbi bridge accident occurred, eyes were drawn straight towards clock-making company Ajanta Manufacturing Ltd (Oreva group) and its MD and chairman Jaysukh Patel, the prime accused and his company, who were given the contract for renovating the bridge by the Morbi municipal board seven months ago.

According to the affidavit filed in the Gujarat high court by the Morbi civic board in-charge chief officer Naran Muchhar in Nov 2022, “On 26-10-2022, without any prior approval, the company reopened the Suspension Bridge for the public at large and that too, without letting Morbi Nagar Palika know about the kind of repairing work which was stated to have been carried out by the company as well as without providing any independent third party’s certificate/s relating to material testing, fitness, holding capacity and structure stability of the said Suspension Bridge”.

Gujarat police named 10 perpetrators

The 1,262-page chargesheet filed by Gujarat police on Jan 27 named Jaysukh Patel of the Oreva group as the prime accused of the Morbi bridge collapse. Nine other accused were also named alongside Patel in the chargesheet.

Managers Deepak Parekh, Dinesh Dave, three security guards, two ticket clerks, and two private contract workers were arrested and put in judicial custody, while Patel had absconded and filed an anticipatory bail.

However, Patel walked into the Morbi judicial magistrate’s court and surrendered himself on Jan 31, a day before his anticipatory bail application was due for hearing.

The long night of Oct 30: When the Morbi bridge came falling down

The tragedy that jolted the whole nation last year occurred in Gujarat’s Morbi on the night of Oct 30. The city’s 141-year-old iconic hanging bridge, or ‘Jhulto Pul', became a deathbed for at least 135 people, including 51 children, who lost their lives on the night of the incident after the suspension cables of the bridge broke loose.

Many who fell from the bridge were feared to be trapped in the waters of the Machchhu river. At the time of the incident, at least 400 people were on board, a crowd reportedly considered ‘over-limit’.

(With inputs from IANS)

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