Morbi bridge collapse: Oreva MD named main accused in 1,200-page chargesheet
Oreva Group was given the contract by the Morbi municipality in March 2022 to repair, operate the British era bridge for 15 years and to collect revenue from its ticket sales
Gujarat police on Friday filed a chargesheet in the Morbi bridge collapse case where it named Oreva chief Jaysukh Patel as the main accused in connection to the tragedy on October 30 where 135 persons lost their lives.
“The police have filed a chargesheet of about 1,262 pages. Based on police investigation, Oreva managing director Jaysukh Patel is the main accused in the case. There are nine others, arrested earlier in the case, who are named in the chargesheet,” Ashok Yadav, Range IG, Rajkot told HT.
Morbi-based home-appliances, clock and e-bike maker Oreva Group was given the contract by the Morbi municipality in March 2022 to repair, operate the British era bridge for 15 years and to collect revenue from its ticket sales.
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The bridge, after undergoing repairs, was thrown open for public on October 26, the Gujarati New Year, by Patel and his family members without informing the Morbi municipality.
Patel has not been seen in public after the tragedy, nor has his company issued any statement regarding it.
An FIR filed by the police at Morbi ‘B’ division police station on October 31 did not name Oreva and its promoters. It showed “agencies responsible for maintenance and management of the hanging bridge” as the main accused, along with others whose names emerged during the course of investigation.
Based on the FIR, the police have arrested nine persons, including two ticket-booking clerks, three security guards, two Oreva group managers and two private contractors hired for the repair and renovation of the bridge.
The state government also suspended Sandipsinh Zala, the then chief officer of the Morbi municipality, who signed the MoU with Oreva group.
A government-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) had cited, among other things, several lapses on part of the Oreva Group in repairs, maintenance and operation of the footbridge.
The forensic science laboratory (FSL) report has revealed that rusty cables, broken anchor pins, and loose bolts were among the lapses that were not addressed while renovating the suspension bridge.
Oreva Group did not hire any expert agency to assess the load-bearing capacity of the bridge before throwing it open to the public, it said.
The state government has also issued a show-cause notice to the Morbi municipality asking why it should not be dissolved for failing to discharge its duties that led to the bridge tragedy. The movement on the bridge was not regulated and several design faults were found in the bridge post renovation works.
The Gujarat police got an arrest warrant from the court more than 10 days ago and police has issued a look out notice for Patel at airports and ports to ensure that he does not flee from the country.
On January 16, Patel moved an anticipatory bail plea in a Morbi sessions court fearing arrest in the case. On January 21, the court adjourned the hearing on the anticipatory bail application of Patel till February 1. The court of principal district and sessions judge PC Joshi deferred the hearing as the public prosecutor was not present.
The Gujarat high court on Wednesday while hearing a suo motu matter in the case observed that there may have been collusion between the Morbi civic body and the Oreva Group, which was given the contract for the renovation of a bridge in the district that collapsed.