Supreme Court asks Gujarat High Court to hold periodical hearings in Morbi bridge collapse [22.11.2022]

Terming the Morbi bridge collapse an "enormous tragedy", the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Gujarat High Court to take up the suo motu matter on a periodical basis to ensure various aspects of the investigation, which include fixing accountability and adequate compensation for the victims are duly addressed.

A bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justice Hima Kohli noted that the high court is monitoring various aspects of the matter almost on a weekly basis and several aspects would require obtaining periodical responses from the officials of the state government and the Nagar Palika.

The bench further added that the high court would undoubtedly be seized of ensuring a regulatory mechanism so that such incidents do not reoccur, and it would be appropriate if the division bench of the high court continues the conduct of the proceedings.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan representing a petitioner who lost his brother and sister-in-law in the incident, raised some issues in the matter.

He submitted that there should be an independent investigation into the matter; there is need to fix responsibility against officials of the Nagar Palika; also, need to ensure that the agency which was maintaining the bridge and its management are held accountable; and award of reasonable compensation to the heirs of those who lost their lives in the tragedy.

The apex court said the high court should consider these aspects raised by the petitioner.

At least 141 people died in the Morbi bridge collapse tragedy which occurred on October 30.

Advocate Vishal Tiwari, who filed a PIL seeking the constitution of a judicial commission to investigate the Morbi bridge collapse in Gujarat, requested the bench to appoint a commission in the matter.

The Chief Justice replied that the commission will put the matter on a back burner and let the judges take charge of the matter.

Concluding the hearing, the bench said since the division bench of the high court has already entertained suo motu proceedings, "we are of the view that the future conduct of the proceedings remain with that division bench of the high court".

The top court granted liberty to the petitioners to move the high court to raise their issues.

On November 1, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear a plea seeking the constitution of a judicial commission to investigate the incident.

The plea was mentioned by Tiwari before a bench headed by then Chief Justice of India U.U Lalit.

Tiwari contended before the top court that he is seeking a judicial enquiry commission and pointed out that there are several old structures in many states.

His plea said the incident shows the negligence and utter failure of government authorities.

It further added that in the past decade various incidents have taken place in the country due to the mismanagement, lapse in duty, and negligent maintenance activities.

The suspension bridge over the Machchhu River collapsed after it was reopened following repairs and maintenance by a private operator.

The plea contended that at the time of collapse, the bridge had several hundred people on it which was over the permissible limit and no fitness certificate was taken by the private operator before reopening the bridge.

22 Nov 2022