The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday heard a suo motu PIL on Morbi bridge tragedy and asked the state government as to how no expression of interest was tendered, and how the ”largesse of the state” was given to an individual without floating a tender.
The collapse of the British-era suspension bridge on the Machchhu river in Gujarat’s Morbi district on October 30 claimed 135 lives including women and children Hearing the suo motu PIL, the high court wanted to know from the state government as to whether a 2008 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and 2022 agreement with the Ajanta Manufacturing Private Ltd (Oreva Group) imposed any conditions regarding fitness certification and if so, who was the competent authority required to do so.
”This agreement is one-and-a-quarter page agreement, absolutely without any conditions. This agreement is by way of an understanding, largesse of the state for ten years, and no tenders floated, no expression of interest,” a division bench of Chief Jistice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh Shastri observed.
”After that term was over on June 15, 2017, what steps were taken by the state government or Morbi municipality to float a tender? How come no expression of interest was tendered, and how the largesse of the state was given to an individual without floating a tender…Why have you still not superseded the municipality?” the court asked.
The court observed that even after the term was over on June 15, 2017, Ajanta (Oreva Group) continued to maintain and manage the bridge even in the absence of any agreement. It wanted to know from the state government whether any steps were taken by local authorities to float a tender for the operation and maintenance of the bridge after the 2008 MoU expired in 2017.
The HC said on November 7 that it had taken suo motu (on its own) cognisance of a news report on the bridge collapse tragedy and registered it as a PIL (Public Interest Litigation).
It had directed the registry to implead the Gujarat government, represented by its chief secretary, state home department, commissioner of municipalities, Morbi municipality, district collector and State Human Rights Commission. On October 31, police arrested nine persons, including four from the Oreva group that was managing the Morbi suspension bridge, and filed a case against firms tasked with the maintenance and operation of the structure.