Supreme Court Asks Petitioners In PILs Regarding Morbi Bridge Collapse To Approach Gujarat High Court
The Supreme Court today heard a PIL seeking the appointment of a judicial commission and a petition seeking an independent investigation by CBI and determination of a dignified sum of money for compensation for those who have lost family in the Morbi Bridge tragedy.
A Bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Bela M Trivedi asked the petitioners to either institute proceedings under Article 226 before the High court or to intervene in the suo moto proceedings initiated by the Gujarat High Court. The Supreme Court, however, granted liberty to petitioners or any other aggrieved individual to move the Supreme Court at any later stage.
Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan argued that an independent investigation by CBI may be ordered. "I am seeking a CBI Investigation under Article 32. We have victims who are not from the state as well, but victims across the country", he said.
Further, he submitted that no action so far has been taken against the officials of Nagar Palika and no arrest was made of the management of Ajanta Company. "No action has been taken against the government officials/Nagar Palika officials is a very serious issue, which undermines the entire investigation. Those people in Nagar Palika, they are responsible for murders that have taken place, in my view", contended the Senior Advocate.
The Chief Justice of India observed, "This will require a weekly monitoring of what steps are being taken, including investigation, award of compensation, the award of contract, etc. This is a matter which requires at least weekly or fortnightly intervention, which I am not sure which Supreme Court should do as a court of first impression when the High Court is available. We may highlight certain issues and flag certain issues which the High Court should consider and focus upon."
"It's a very ad-hoc type of compensation that is paid. This young couple, both of whom died leaving behind a nine-year-old child. There is 2 lakhs from PM Relief and 4 lakhs from CM Relief. This is an important issue", said the Senior Advocate.
The Supreme Court said that the determination of a dignified sum of money for compensation for those who have lost members of their family in the disaster may also be undertaken by the High Court.
"The Hon'ble High Court is going into minute details of the case. I don't see any reason not to have trust in the High Court. In suo moto there are no specific prayers. Whatever is brought before the Court, the Court examines and takes appropriate decision", said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
The Supreme Court then dictated its order as follows:-
"The Senior counsel has highlighted certain facets of the matter which should engage the attention of a judicial forum: (1) Need for independent investigation on acts and omissions which would amount to criminal wrongdoings; (2) Need to affix responsibility against officials of Nagar Palika; (3) the agency which was entrusted with the task of maintaining the bridge and its management are held accountable but not confined to making arrest during course of investigation; and (4) award of reasonable compensation for heirs of those who have lost their lives in tragedy.....The court would undoubtedly want regulatory mechanisms so that such instances don't not reoccur. We would therefore allow petitioners to either institute proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution or to intervene in the suo moto proceedings. Should it become necessary, at any stage to move this Court at a later date, liberty is granted to petitioners or any other aggrieved individual. We dispose of proceedings leaving it open to pursue remedies before High Court. We request the High Court to put up the matter on a periodical basis."
Earlier, the Bench comprising then CJI UU Lalit and Justice Bela M Trivedi had directed the urgent listing of the matter on being mentioned by Advocate Vishal Tiwari.
In an unfortunate event on October 30, 2022, a century-old suspension bridge in Morbi, Gujrat collapsed, resulting in the death of more than 130 people and leaving several injured.
Cause Title: Vishal Tiwari v. Union of India & Ors.