Morbi Bridge Collapse- Why Contract To Maintain Bridge Was Awarded To Ajanta Without Any Tender: Gujarat HC Slams State
In the Morbi Bridge Collapse incident, the Gujarat High Court today slammed the State Government over the way the contract to maintain the bridge was awarded to Ajanta Manufacturing without floating any tender.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh J. Shastri noted that the largesse of the State seemed to have been granted without there being any tender floated in that regard.
The Court also questioned the Collector, Rajkot, and Morbi Municipality as to what steps were taken by them after the term of Ajanta was over on June 15th, 2007.
While noting that the MoU was executed on June 16, 2008 between the Collector, Rajkot and one M/s. Ajanta Manufacturing to operate, maintain, manage, and collect rent in respect of the suspension bridge and the said 9 years period came to be expired on June 15, 2007, the Court further questioned that under the said MoU who had been fixed the responsibility to certify that the bridge is ready and fit for usage is not forthcoming.
The Court in this context noted, "In fact, we notice that for the period from 2007 till 15.6.2017 for a period of 2 years, without there being any MoU or agreement or entrustment, the subject bridge has been continued to be maintained and managed by Ajanta even in the absence of there being any agreement."
The Bench further added that even though their term had expired the said Ajanta continued to operate, maintain, and receive the Revenue from the visitors to the Bridge.
The Court thus framed certain questions to be dealt with by the State in their affidavit.
The Court noted that pursuant to its order dated November 7, Registry issued a notice to the Morbi Municipality (Respondent No. 4), however, the same was not retuned, thus the Court directed the Registry to forward email to the Principal District Judge, Morbi, to depute a special bailiff to serve the notice on the municipality indicating the date of hearing of the Petition as November 16, 2022.
The Bench further also directed the State Government to secure the entire files/records relating to the contract with Ajanta commencing from day one till date and same shall be filed it in the Registry in a sealed cover by November 18, 2022.
Thus, the Court directed the Registry to list the matter for November 16, 2022 for hearing Respondent No. 4 – Morbi Municipality.
On November 7, the Gujarat High Court took suo moto cognizance of the Morbi Bridge collapse incident that occurred on October 30, 2022. The Court took cognizance of the news published in the Times of India newspaper and directed the Registry to register the news report as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which reflected the untimely death of 134 persons due to break down of suspension bridge of Morbi.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had also agreed to hear the plea seeking judicial enquiry into the incident.
Cause Title - Suo Motu v. State of Gujarat