Morbi tragedy: Oreva’s MD named as accused in charge sheet | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Morbi tragedy: Oreva’s MD named as accused in charge sheet

Jan 28, 2023 12:39 AM IST

The police are yet to arrest Oreva’s MD , who has repeatedly failed to appear before them for questioning. Efforts are on to trace his location, senior police officers said.

Ahmedabad Nearly three months after a British-era suspension bridge collapsed into the river Macchu in Morbi, leaving 135 people dead, the Gujarat Police has named the absconding Jaysukh Patel, the managing director of Oreva Group, the firm that held the contract to maintain, repair and renovate the bridge, as the prime accused in a charge sheet filed on Friday.

In March 2022, Oreva group, a company which specialises in making clocks, home appliances and e-bikes, was given the contract to repair, renovate, maintain and operate the “Jhulto Pul”, or suspension bridge, originally built in 1879, for a period of 15 years (PTI)
In March 2022, Oreva group, a company which specialises in making clocks, home appliances and e-bikes, was given the contract to repair, renovate, maintain and operate the “Jhulto Pul”, or suspension bridge, originally built in 1879, for a period of 15 years (PTI)

The police are yet to arrest Patel, who has repeatedly failed to appear before them for questioning. Efforts are on to trace his location, senior police officers said.

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“Based on our investigation, we have filed a charge sheet and have named Jaysukh Patel as the main accused in the case. There are nine others who were arrested earlier in the case that have also been named in the charge sheet filed at the magistrate court in Morbi,” Ashok Yadav, inspector general, Rajkot range, said.

After repeated summons for questioning were ignored by Patel, the state police approached a local court in Morbi in second week of January, which then granted an arrest warrant against him January 13. All ten accused, including Patel, have been charged under IPC sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 336 (act which endangers human life), 337 (causing hurt to any person by doing any rash or negligent act), and 338 (causing grievous hurt by doing rash or negligent act).

In March 2022, Oreva group, a company which specialises in making clocks, home appliances and e-bikes, was given the contract to repair, renovate, maintain and operate the “Jhulto Pul”, or suspension bridge, originally built in 1879, for a period of 15 years. After ostensibly going through a renovation process and being shut for a few months, the bridge was thrown open for the public on October 26 by Patel and members of his family. Three days later, the bridge collapsed even as questions were raised about the quality of the repairs, and the number of people that were allowed on the bridge at one time.

A government-appointed special investigation team (SIT) appointed in the wake of the bridge collapse had said that there were several lapses including rusty cables, broken anchor pins, and loose bolts that were not addressed during the renovation process. The Oreva Group did not hire an expert agency to assess the load-bearing capacity of the bridge before throwing it open to the public, it had said.

“The documentary evidence including the signatory authority on the repair work carried out for maintenance and repair of the bridge, all point to Patel as an accused. Our investigation shows that he was the acting authority of the company and maintenance, operation and repair was his primary responsibility. He has been evading arrest after we got a warrant from court. Hence, we have named him as an absconder in the matter,” said Rahul Tripathi, superintendent of police, Morbi.

On January 16, Patel, who has not been seen in public since the tragedy, moved an anticipatory bail plea in a Morbi sessions court fearing arrest. On January 21, the court adjourned the hearing till February 1 as the public prosecutor was not present.

Nirupam Nanavaty, senior counsel representing Patel, said, “I have not seen the chargesheet but labeling Patel an absconder is premature. He has already file anticipatory bail as an accused as is his right. Naming him an accused or absconder may be the police’s perception but my client’s prayer is before the court and he has the option of approaching a higher judicial authority for justice.”

Patel’s counsel on Wednesday also told the Gujarat high court, which is hearing a separate petition on the bridge collapse, that Oreva was willing to pay compensation to victims and those that have been injured.

Milan Paida, a resident of Morbi who lost his uncle, aunt and two cousins aged 8 and 15 in the bridge collapse, said that the law was taking its course. “If the police have named Patel (in the charge sheet), they must have found something substantial. We have faith in the government and judiciary that they will do the right thing to bring the culprits to books,” he said.

Jaysukh Patel is the son of the prominent industrialist Odhavji Patel, who founded the Ajanta group, widely known for its clocks, in the city of Morbi that is also one of the primary centres of India’s ceramic industry. The Oreva Group, founded by Jaysukh Patel seven years ago, builds home appliances and e-bikes.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat government earlier this month issued a show-cause notice to the Morbi municipality that entered into the agreement with Oreva, asking why it should not be dissolved for failing to discharge its duties. Among the myriad other lapses, the state has also told court that there was no restriction on the sale of tickets despite it being a suspension bridge and 3165 tickets were sold on October 30 alone, the day it collapsed. The last date to file a reply, according to the notice, was January 25.

Jayrajsinh Jadeja, vice president of the Morbi municipality, however, said, “The 52-member municipality has passed a resolution and urged the Gujarat government to return documents seized by the Special Investigation Team so we can respond to their show-cause notice.”

A senior state government official said that they have received a response, but no firm decision has been taken about their dissolution thus far.

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