Morbi tragedy: Supreme Court lists PIL seeking judicial probe into bridge collapse for Nov 14

The Supreme Court Tuesday listed for November 14 a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) seeking a judicial probe into the recent collapse of the suspension bridge over the Machchhu river in Morbi, Gujarat that resulted in the death of more than 130 persons.

Advocate Vishal Tiwari who filed the plea was mentioned before a bench presided by Chief Justice UU Lalit.

Responding to a query from the bench, the petitioner said he was primarily seeking a probe by a retired judge into the matter. He added that there are similar old bridges and monuments in different parts of the country and sought directions to the state governments to form committees to survey and conduct a risk assessment of these structures.

The plea has sought the formation of a ‘construction incident investigation department’ in every state with the responsibility to assess the quality of public constructions and to carry out fast and prompt investigations whenever such incidents occur.

He pointed out that as per the FIR, the bridge was opened on October 26 after repair and maintenance by private operator Oreva Group without obtaining a fitness certificate. The petitioner also added that at the time of the collapse, the bridge had more than 500 people on it which is beyond the permitted number.

The plea also accused the state of supervisory negligence.

“The maintenance and repairing work was delegated to a private operator that is Oreva Group who had absolutely failed in the functioning of maintenance and repairing with the absolute failure of the State Government to supervise and administer the risk and suitability of such British time bridges. The State Government has failed in its duty of care of overseeing the functionality of the bridge along with its timely maintenance,” the plea stated.

The plea further said that similar ‘avoidable’ incidents had happened in many places across India in the last decade owing to negligence in maintenance.

Nine persons have been arrested on charges of culpable homicide (not amounting to murder) in the case so far. These include two managers of Oreva Group (Ajanta Manufacturing Pvt Ltd), the company which was awarded the contract to maintain the bridge by the municipality, two ticketing clerks, two contractors engaged by the company for bridge repair work, and three security guards who were supposed to control the footfall on the bridge.

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