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AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat high court on Wednesday questioned the Morbi municipality why it allowed the use of the suspension bridge despite Ajanta Manufacturing Ltd informing it on December 29, 2021, that the bridge’s condition was “critical” and it required urgent repairs.

The bridge collapsed on October 30 resulting in the death of 135 persons. The HC also sought to know from the municipality why it allowed the bridge to be used and reopened it to the public without getting any approval.

After getting a rap from the high court for dodging a court hearing on Tuesday, the municipality was made to file its reply in a hurry. However, the high court found gaps in its affidavit and sought more details and reasons for certain inactions on part of the civic body.

The municipality informed the HC that Ajanta (Oreva Group) had informed the municipality on December 29, 2021, that the condition of the bridge was “critical”. The bench said, “It is intriguing to note that even after receiving intimation form the company that the bridge was in a critical condition, the municipality allowed it to be used “

Allowing public on bridge despite its condition intriguing, says HC

Ahmedabad: Upon perusal of the reply filed by in-charge chief officer of Morbi municipality about the communication and agreement between Ajanta Manufacturing Ltd (Oreva Group) and the authorities, the Gujarat high court found it “intriguing” that even after the authorities were informed by the company about the critical condition of the suspension bridge, no action was taken.

The bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh Shastri said, “It is intriguing to note that even after receiving intimation from the company that the bridge was in a critical condition, the municipality allowed it to be used, and permitted public at large to use it till March 7, 2022. Hence, the affidavit (to be filed by municipality) should disclose as to how Ajanta was permitted to use the bridge from December 29, 2021, till it was closed on March 7, 2022?”

The court has ordered the municipality to produce the letter written by the company to the authorities, informing them about the poor condition of the bridge. In its reply, the municipality also submitted that the new agreement between the chief officer and the company, executed for 15 years on March 8, 2022, was subject to approval by the municipality’s general body. The court observed that the municipality’s affidavit was silent about the approval. It directed the municipality “to place on record the copy of approval granted by the general board, if any, of the agreement of March 8, 2022.”

It also directed the municipality to mention in its affidavit “the reasons for allowing Ajanta to use the bridge despite there being no approval for utilization.” The HC has sought a reply by November 24. Meanwhile, the municipality’s in-charge chief officer, Naran Mucchar, filed his reply in a hurried manner on Wednesday after the HC threatened to impose a fine of Rs 1 lakh and warned him not to take things casually. He cited election duties assigned to him for not responding to the court’s notice.

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