Morbi bridge tragedy: Gujarat High Court pulls up civic body; remarks they're "acting smart"

The bench also noted that the bridge continued to be maintained by Oreva Group despite the contract expiring in 2017

File Photo (Twitter)
File Photo (Twitter)

NH Web Desk

The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday, while examining the Morbi bridge collapse tragedy, questioned the Morbi Civic bodies on why the contract was given to Oreva Group without inviting a tender.

The court pulled up the Morbi Civic Body for not being represented by an official despite a notice and raised a question on the contract awarded for the maintenance of the 150-year-old bridge which collapsed on October 30 killing over 140 people.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh J Shastri said, "State took steps that are expected from it (after the incident) but the agreement signed b/w Morbi civic body and a private contractor (for bridge renovation) is just 1.5 pages. No tender was invited. Why contract was granted without inviting any tender?"

The court said "Why did the state not use its power under the section 263 of the Gujarat Municipalities Act as prima facie the municipality has defaulted, which led to an unfortunate incident that resulted in the deaths of 135 innocent persons".

The bench also noted that the bridge continued to be maintained by the Oreva Group despite the contract expiring in 2017. On the Morbi Nagar Palika's absence in court despite being served notice, the court remarked that they are "acting smart". It also noted that, "The municipality, a government body, has defaulted, which ultimately killed 135 people."

In an interim order the court has observed, "An MOU came to be executed on June 16, 2008 between the Rajkot Collector (then Morbi was part of Rajkot district) and one Ajanta to operate, maintain, manage and collect rent in respect of the suspension bridge. This MOU expired in 2017. The moot question is under the MOU, it is not forthcoming who has the responsibility to certify that the bridge is fit for usage. When the MOU expired in 2017, What steps were taken to call for expression of interest or float a tender for a further period."

The court also observed that the contract for such an important project was only 1.5 pages long and questioned the same. The court also wished to know the action the state government has taken against Morbi Chief Officer S.V. Zala. "We have taken suo moto cognizance of this Morbi incident. But for the vacation, we would have sat on the same day itself… we want some action from your end," it said.

The Morbi Bridge was a 150-year old suspension bridge in Gujarat that collapsed on 30 October 2022 claiming at least 135 lives and injuring 180 people.

With IANS inputs

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