Gujarat High Court asks why Morbi civic body was not dissolved

The high court also stated that the compensation announced for the victims by the Gujarat Government was grossly inadequate and asked the authorities to increase the amount.

Darshan DesaiUpdated: Friday, November 25, 2022, 09:30 AM IST
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People gather at the site during a rescue operation after the collapse of a suspension bridge over the Machchhu river, in Morbi district, on Monday, October 31 | PTI

Ahmedabad: Continuing hearings in the Morbi tragedy, the Gujarat High Court on Thursday blasted the Bhupendra Patel Government for not superseding the town’s BJP-ruled municipality which favoured an unqualified private firm to award the maintenance of the pedestrian bridge that collapsed on October 30, scalping 135 lives.

The high court also stated that the compensation announced for the victims by the Gujarat Government was grossly inadequate and asked the authorities to increase the amount.

A high court bench comprising Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh Shastri took serious note of that the Morbi Municipality had awarded the bridge’s maintenance contract to the Oreva group without the approval of the General Board and asked the Gujarat Government why did it not supersede the civic body.

The court observed that the Morbi civic body was more interested about the price of tickets and retention of contract than about warnings that the bridge was in a critical condition, as told by private contractor Ajanta.

The bench pointed out that the State Government has the powers under Section 263 of the Gujarat Municipality Act to supersede the municipality and dissolve a civic body in cases of abuse of power, among other violations.

The division bench stopped short of further scathing observations after the State submitted that it was awaiting the report of the Special Investigation Report probing the devastating collapse.

The court directed the BJP Government to survey similar bridges to thoroughly check their stability. The court asserted, “It is high time that all the officials who are either monitoring, managing, controlling and administering such bridges across Gujarat should ensure that the bridges in their jurisdiction are in proper condition, and if not, remedial measures should be taken.” Not only this, the court asked the government to submit within 10 days how many similar bridges existed in the State.

Expressing concern over the “abysmally low” Rs 4 lakh compensation to the families of those who died in the accident, Rs 50,000 to those who were injured and Rs 3,000 per month to children who have lost their parents.

“A family [of the deceased] should at least get Rs 10 lakh as compensation. The compensation proposed to be paid to the family of the deceased and other seriously injured people is concerned, it is abysmally on the lower side. The compensation must be realistic. We hope and trust, this will be raised.”

On the compensation being given to children, the court said this was too low and would get used up in buying books and school uniforms. Seven children had become orphans and 12 lost one of their parents in the tragedy.

The High Court also sought details of the break-up of all the amounts received to provide compensation as to how much is from the chief minister’s relief fund, the prime minister’s relief fund, and how much has been donated by private individuals.

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