Ajanta Oreva,the private contractor, who was operating the Morbi bridge in Gujarat during the time it snapped has informed the Gujarat High Court that the State and other authorities cannot pass the buck and lay the entire blame for the bridge collapse on Oreva.
Senior Advocate Nirupam Nanavati, who represented the Contractor told the bench of Chief Justice (CJ) Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh J Shastri that the company concerned had no interest as far as earning of profits from overseeing the suspension bridge but took up the task of operating the bridge after it was persuaded to do by some “influential persons”
The contractor said that he was there defend himself as others have literally passed buck to him and he needs to defend himself.
The advocate Nanavati further pointed out that his client’s only concern was to ensure the heritage bridge was operated properly.
The counsel of the contractor added that it was not a commercial venture and he was persuaded to look after the bridge which collapsed due to the overcrowding.
Nanavati said that since his client is being solely blamed for the incident, he must be allowed to defend himself.
The bench was was told that it was a sheer misfortune which led to this disastrous incident which shattered all.
The bench was further informed that the contractor, as a goodwill gesture, has already decided to compensate the victims of the tragic incident.
The counsel of the contractor said that the his client has taken up the real of the seven children, who have been orphaned in this tragedy.
He assured the court that his client will take care of the orphans by providing them residence, education, other amenities of life, give them jobs either in our firm or get them one.
The bench, however, clarified that even if the contractor offers to compensate the victims, the same would not be considered as a ground in his favour in future as the criminal law has been set in motion.
The bench criticised the Morbi Nagar Palika for failing to take any stern action against the contractor, who used the bridge in the absence of any prior permission or approval either by the civic body or the State.
The CJ asked if the contractor was threatening Morbi Nagar Palika ,why wasn’t an action taken despite being a powerful authority.
Meanwhile, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi representing the State, filed an affidavit stating that over 63 bridges across the State are in need of repairs. Of these, 23 bridges require major repairs while 40 need minor ones.
AG Trivedi further told the court that the State was actively considering bringing in a uniform policy for inspection of all the bridges across the State.
The bench ordered the State to file another affidavit spelling out the steps it has undertaken to bring in this policy. A further directive was issued to the State to ensure that all precautions are taken and the bridges which need repairs are attended to immediately.
The matter would be again taken up on February 20.