Coming down heavily on the Morbi Municipal Committee and its CEO SV Zala for ignoring warnings flagged by the private contractor regarding the critical condition of the Morbi suspension bridge whose collapse led to the death of 135 people, the Gujarat High Court today observed that the civic authority chief “was prima facie guilty of dereliction of duty”, reported Live Law.
While hearing a suo motu case today, a bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh J Shastri noted came down hard on the civic authority also questioned the state government why it did not exercise power under Section 263 of the Gujarat Municipality Act to supersede the Municipality in case of abuse of power, default, etc.
“The tenor of the letter sent by the Nagar Palika to the Ajanta on 19/01/2022 indicates concentrates more on the price of the tickets…. Nagar Palika seems to have ignored the warning of the condition of the bridge which had been signaled by the m/s Ajanta (private contractor). Thus, the communications exchanged between the Morbi Nagar Palika and m/s Ajanta is for the retention of the contract by Ajanta rather than bestowing attention to the repair of the bridge, which was in a critical stage,” Live Law quoted the bench as saying.
The bench, however, refrained from making any remark on the state government since it had submitted that it was waiting for the SIT to submit its report on the matter before making a submission.
The court, however, pulled up the state government over inaction against municipality CEO Zala and questioned the government on the action it had taken against him so far. “You do it on your own or we will issue directions,” the Chief Justice remarked when informed by AG Kamal Trivedi that the SIT report was awaited. The court further remarked that proceedings for dereliction of duty can go ahead against him.
The court also pulled up the Morbi Nagar Palika for permitting M/s Ajanta to maintain the bridge between August 2017 and March 2022.
“What was the Morbi Civic body doing between August 2017 to March 2022? The duration during which there was no agreement/MOU for the maintenance of the bridge. Who allowed Ajanta to maintain the bridge? The bridge was shut only in March 2022, what about the 5 years duration before that? How will you explain your inaction?” the bench said, rapping the civic body for remaining silent for five years.
The High Court also took exception to the compensation proposed to be given to the victims and the kin of the deceased, and said that an amount of Rs 4 lakh compensation to the kin of the deceased was not enough.