Sunday, January 29, 2023

Morbi bridge tragedy: Gujarat HC issues notice to firm

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the company involved in the maintenance and operation of the Morbi suspension bridge, which collapsed in October killing 135 people, on a plea seeking the company be made a respondent in the suo motu proceedings initiated by the HC.
A division bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh Shastri issued notice to Ajanta Manufacturing Limited on the plea which stated the “acts of malfeasance on its (the company’s) part makes it liable for the payment of exemplary damages.”
The HC said it had initiated suo motu proceedings after taking cognizance of news items on the death of 135 persons in the October 30 bridge collapse tragedy.
The division bench also dismissed an application filed by 46 councillors of the Morbi municipality seeking they be impleaded in the proceedings as they fear the civic body might be superseded going by the observations made by the HC in its previous order.
The next hearing on the suo motu proceedings will be held on January 19.
Applicants Sanjiv Ezhava and Dilip Chavda said while there may be some doubt regarding the contract between the company and the local civic body, it was clear from the affidavits filed in the court that the company “controlled the entire administration, repair, maintenance and operation of the ill-fated structure.”
The company did own a duty of care to the public at large, which it failed to exhibit and which led to the unfortunate incident, said the plea. “Such acts of malfeasance on the part of M/s Ajanta will make it liable for the payment of exemplary damages. For this reason, it is necessary that M/s Ajanta be joined as respondent number 7 to this petition,” it said.
The company had roped in local fabricator Devprakash Solutions to carry out repairs to the bridge. The bridge was opened to people during the Diwali holidays without informing the government or providing a third-party fitness certificate, as per the plea.
In their plea, the 46 councillors contended the high court has made observations requiring the state government to supersede the civic body under the Gujarat Municipalities Act, 1963.
If they are not made a party to any such decision and a decision to supersede is made, then this would affect their rights, the application said.
The councillors claimed they were not part of the decision-making process as no general board resolution was passed before the grant of lease of the Morbi bridge.
“The applicants are neither necessary nor proper parties to the said proceedings …At this stage, their presence is not necessary,” observed the bench while dismissing their applications.

SourcePTI
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