Morbi Bridge Collapse: Gujarat HC orders Oreva Group to give ₹10 lakh to each to kin of deceased

Morbi Bridge Collapse: Gujarat HC orders Oreva Group to give ₹10 lakh to each to kin of deceased

Clock manufacturing firm Oreva was responsible for maintaining the British-era suspension bridge which collapsed over the Machchhu river on October 30 last year.

Darshan DesaiUpdated: Wednesday, February 22, 2023, 10:56 PM IST
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The collapsed portion of an old suspension bridge over the Machchhu river, in Gujarat's Morbi district | PTI

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday directed the private firm Oreva Group, allegedly responsible for the October 30 Morbi bridge collapse that claimed 141 lives, to increase the compensation payable to the victims of the incident.

The Ajanta Oreva firm, which was contracted by the Morbi Municipality to maintain the 140-year-old suspension bridge, had earlier offered to compensate ₹3.5 lakh to the kin of those killed and ₹50,000 to the injured persons. When the company’s Senior Advocate Nirupam Nanavati on Wednesday submitted that they had decided to enhance the compensation to ₹5 lakh for the families of those who died and ₹1 lakh to those injured in the tragedy, the high court observed that this too was less.

A division bench of Chief Justice Sonia Gokani and Justice Sandeep Bhatt stated that these amounts were not in consonance with the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the Sanjay Gupta vs State of UP case. The apex court had directed then that private parties found responsible for any incident must pay 55% compensation to the victims.

Applying this guideline, the high court ordered Oreva to pay ₹10 lakh to the kin of the deceased and ₹2 lakh to those injured.

₹8 lakh paid by state govt, ₹2 lakh from Centre

The division bench ordered, “The State has paid an amount of ₹8 lakh and the Central government through PM Relief Fund has paid ₹2 lakh for the victims. We have noted that the Contractor has offered to pay some compensation, but we think this amount does not match with the apportionment of 55 per cent as ordered by the apex court. Thus, we direct the company to enhance the compensation amount for deceased to Rs 10 lakh and Rs 2 lakh for those injured in the incident.”

The court took note that the company had committed to take full care of seven children orphaned in the tragedy, right from their stay, education and jobs. But simultaneously ordered, “We believe the State too must extend the benefits of its various schemes to these orphaned children. Also, it has to look after the needs of those children, who have lost one parent in the incident.”

Advocate-General Kamal Trivedi informed the Court that the State would provide the benefits of relevant schemes, like Balak Mata Pita Yojana and Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra Yojana to both, the orphaned children and those who lost one parent over and above the compensation already being paid.

The court asked the government to set up a dedicated authority to properly verify and certify if a bridge was fit to use after the State’s engineers finish the necessary repair works to ensure better accountability and ordered that such a policy should be introduced within the next 15 days.

The bench took note, at the same time, that the Roads and Bridges Department was looking after 1,400 bridges and they are inspected twice a year prior to the monsoons and after the season to properly maintain all the bridges.

398 other bridges need repairing

The Advocate-General also submitted that the same policy would be applicable to 461 bridges under the control of the State's Urban Development Department (UDD) and claimed that of them 398 bridges under the UDD didn’t need any repairs and were fit to use.

The government informed the court that the necessary proceedings to supersede and take over the Morbi Municipality and a decision on this would be taken soon.

Senior Advocate Manisha Lavkumar, who also represents the government, submitted a copy of the charge-sheet filed against the accused in the lower court. The Oreva firm’s directors, including its owner Jaysukh Patel, have already been arrested. She submitted that the compensation would be dispersed properly without any filters.

The court has scheduled the next hearing after two weeks.

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