Bridge collapse: Why not consider dissolving Morbi municipality, HC asks Gujarat govt

The Indian Express | 4 days ago | 25-11-2022 | 12:50 am

Bridge collapse: Why not consider dissolving Morbi municipality, HC asks Gujarat govt

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday asked the Gujarat government why it was not considering dissolving or superseding the Morbi municipality by exercising powers under the Gujarat Municipalities Act, as being the owner, it was the responsibility of the municipality to ensure safety of the suspension bridge that collapsed on October 30, killing 135 people, but it ignored early warnings on the critical condition of the bridge.Pulling up the state government while hearing a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) pertaining to the Morbi bridge collapse, a bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice AJ Shastri observed that the incident “prima facie cannot be brushed aside as not exhibiting the incompetency or default of the municipality”.During the proceedings on Thursday, CJ Kumar orally asked Advocate General (AG) Kamal Trivedi, “Does not this magnitude of tragedy warrant the superseding, takeover of the municipality,” to which Trivedi responded, “…we are waiting for SIT report.”The CJ remarked, “Then we may have to issue appropriate directions. Either you exercise (powers in) your domain or if you don’t do it, we will do it.”Dictating the order, the CJ recorded, “Section 263 of the Gujarat Municipalites Act empowers the state government to dissolve or supersede municipality in case of incompetency, default or abuse of power. The catastrophe within the jurisdiction of Morbi municipality… prima facie cannot be brushed aside… it is for this precise reason that we had posed the question as to why the state has not exercised the power under S 263 of the Act to supersede or dissolve the municipality.”“…we do hope and trust the state would not only expedite in securing the opinion from SIT but would also act upon it in the true letter and spirit of Section 263 of the Gujarat Municiaplities Act, 1963,” the CJ added.The bench also expressed its dissatisfaction that the state had only suspended the chief officer (CO) of Morbi municipality SV Zala and had not issued a chargesheet, despite there appearing to be a “prima facie dereliction of duty”.The court noted, “Advocate General has submitted that the disciplinary proceedings against SV Zala has been initiated by resolution dated 3.11.2022 and the chargesheet may be required to be issued to him which is dependent on the SIT report. However, we are not inclined to accept the said submission… the tragedy has taken the life of 135 persons at which point of time, the said SV Zala was the CO and responsible for the maintenance of the bridge… prima facie there seems to have been a dereliction of duty, which would call for initiation of disciplinary proceedings by issuing imputation of charges by the competent authority which we do hope and trust by next date of hearing would have received the attention of competent authority and… placed on record of this court.”The bench also pulled up the Morbi municipality for denying that it had not transferred possession of the bridge to M/S Ajanta Manufacturing Pvt Ltd, observing, “It is no doubt true that the bridge… has not been sold. However, it cannot be gainsaid by the municipality that it (bridge) has not been leased or otherwise transferred the said bridge to M/s Ajanta… as the agreement/MoUs entered into by the collector and the chief officer Morbi hitherto would disclose that the operation, maintenance, collection security has been handed over to M/s Ajanta…”When the state stressed that the bridge has been the property of the Morbi municipality, the court observed as to how a municipality property could have been handed over to Ajanta by the collector, instead of the Morbi municipality CO, saying it “requires to be answered both by the state as well as the Morbi municipality”.The bench also did not take it kindly that the municipality ignored the “critical condition” of the bridge, as was flagged by Ajanta in December 2021. Asking the Morbi nagarpalika to place on record all files before the court, the bench said, “…way back on 29.12.2021, M/s Ajanta has notified that the suspension bridge is in critical condition. It has also been stated that accident can happen any time… In reply to the letter, the nagarpalika has sought for handing over the bridge by M/s Ajanta by communication dated 19.1.2022. The tenor of the said letter would also indicate that the same is concentrated more towards the price of the ticket rather than the condition of the bridge… the communications exchanged between Morbi and M/s Ajanta is for retention of the contract with M/s Ajanta, rather than bestowing the attention on the repair of the bridge which was said to be in a critical stage…”Referring to the affidavit by Morbi municipality, the bench came down heavily on the “manner in which the entire situation was handled by the officials of the Morbi municipality and the company”.Morbi municipality, represented by senior advocate Devang Vyas, also submitted before the court that the agreement terms did not permit Ajanta to outsource the repair work, while also submitting that the company has taken the defence that the agreement provided for no intervention by either the municipality or any of the state authorities.The court has now sought that the state submit before the court on oath the date on which the report the SIT will be made available, so that the court can decide whether “to continue the said SIT and/or constitute any other inquiry as may be warranted…”.The court has also sought that “the entire files pertaining to the Morbi bridge other than what has already been tendered by the Morbi municipality,” be placed on the court’s records.Additionally the court noted that the compensation being provided to those seriously injured as well as the next of kin of those deceased is “abysmally low” as is the monthly allowance of Rs 3,000 that the state has decided to provide to the seven children orphaned, and suggested the state to revise the same, guided by SC judgement in Sarla Verma case.“We hope and trust that by the next date of hearing the said compensation, which would not only be realistic and also the need of the hour is taken care of, by paying appropriate compensation… we call upon the state authorities to file a detailed affidavit disclosing these aspects… as a stopgap arrangement where the injury is of fracture or crush injury, the compensation can be evaluated by adopting the yardstick prescribed by Apex Court in Sarla Verma’s case where victims of road accidents are being paid compensation…This can be used as a thumb rule… which we hope and trust the state would immediately bestow its attention and ensure that such reasonable compensation is paid to the injured though it may not be commensurate to the disability they’ve suffered…,” the bench said.With a long-term view, the court also suggested the state formulate a policy in regard to such compensation and asked officials to take “remedial measures” to prevent such untoward incidents. “The state shall place on record how many similar or such bridges are located in Gujarat, their existing condition  with all details thereof duly certified by jurisdictional engineers and place it before this court,” the bench said.The court has kept the matter for further hearing on December 12.

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The Indian Express | 4 hours ago | 29-11-2022 | 11:50 am
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The Indian Express | 4 hours ago | 29-11-2022 | 11:50 am
The Indian Express
4 hours ago | 29-11-2022 | 11:50 am

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BJP converted city of Begum, Badshah to Karnavati: Amit Shah
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The Indian Express | 4 hours ago | 29-11-2022 | 11:50 am
The Indian Express
4 hours ago | 29-11-2022 | 11:50 am

Assam Chief Minister and one of the star campaigners of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat elections, Himanta Biswa Sarma, on Monday launched an attack on opposition Congress for providing such an eco-system to the country where issues likes love jihad became very easy, and called for a law against love jihad that is possible “only in the BJP government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.On his second visit to Gujarat for campaigning, Sarma raised the infamous Delhi murder case involving Aftab Poonawala and Shraddha Walkar from Mumbai, which he had raised during his earlier visit also.The Assam CM said that before her murder, Shraddha had lodged a complaint with Maharashtra police against Aftab but an FIR was not registered. “At that time, the government in Maharashtra was that of Shiv Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party… because of Congress’s politics of appeasement, a special class has got freedom to do whatever they want… ‘you do anything and law will not touch you’. It is because of Congress’s appeasement that the country has started seeing incidents like that of Aftab-Shradhha.”Sarma mentioned that Shraddha was cut into 34 pieces and such gruesome murder is possible only if some other agenda was attached to it. “Else, you will never cut a person, with whom you have lived for some time, into 34 pieces,” he said.“Therefore, I believe that the country needs a law against love jihad. And it can be possible only in the BJP government under the leadership of Narendra Modi,” Sarma said.Defending his statement that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has started looking like Saddam Hussain (former chief of Iraq), Sarma said, “Some people from Congress got unhappy (with my comment). What is there to be unhappy about? I did not call him Bahadur Shah Zafar (the last emperor of the Mughal dynasty). I only said that your face looks like Saddam (Hussain). Remove the beard and again you will look like Rahul (Gandhi). What is the problem? That is my assessment. You are giving it publicity by trolling me,” Sarma said.Mentioning about the BJP manifesto for the Gujarat elections, Sarma said that the issues like checking love jihad, commitment for Uniform Civil Code, work against radicalisation, increasing medical insurance for poor from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, resolve against terrorism, announcement to express readiness to hold Olympics, etc., have come up during the Gujarat elections.“The country has started feeling the agenda of 2024 (Lok Sabha elections) on which issues the 2024 elections will be fought,” he said, adding that Congress did not control terrorism in the country, but it was done by PM Modi after 2014.Sarma said that the BJP is set to win more than 150 seats in the current state assembly elections and more than 400 in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.In reply to a question whether he was trying to polarise Hindu voters in Gujarat, Sarma said, “What is the problem in it? Don’t Hindus have a right to talk like a political force? Is it only the right of (Asaduddin) Owaisi to polarise? ”“We too have a right to talk about Sanatan Sanskruti in India, to talk about Hindu asmita (pride) and also talk against the exploitation of women in Muslim community. Why do you think that by talking about Hindu pride, the country will be polarised?”Replying to a question on radicalisation, Sarma said that nobody is saying that an entire community is radicalised. “There are patriots in that community as well. But unfortunately, Popular Front of India (PFI) and Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) also come from that community. So, we have to accompany the patriots from that class and destroy the radicals.”In its manifesto, the BJP has promised to have a cell against radicalisation. Sarma said that we need to have a “vaccine” against radicalisation.Sarma also campaigned for BJP candidates Hardik Patel in Viramgam and Alpesh Thakor in Gandhinagar South constituencies later in the day. In Motera area of Ahmedabad, which falls under Gandhinagar South constituency, Sarma participated in a programme organised by the local Assamese population.

Congress provided such an eco-system where love jihad was easy: Himanta Biswa Sarma
Gujarat Assembly Elections: This poll to make Gujarat touch new heights says PM Modi
The Indian Express | 4 hours ago | 29-11-2022 | 11:50 am
The Indian Express
4 hours ago | 29-11-2022 | 11:50 am

At his last rally in Rajkot for the first phase of Gujarat elections, for which campaigning ends Tuesday 5 pm, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Rajkot that this election is to “make our Gujarat developed, prosperous and touch new heights”.“Now, we can’t afford to tread slowly. We have completed 75 years of Independence and whatever capital we have accumulated and strength we have gained, whatever difficulties we have overcome, we can’t afford to walk for another 75 years. Whatever we want to do, we must do in just 25 years. This election is to resolve that we want to take Hindustan and Gujarat to that height, come what may,” he said.Addressing a rally on Race Course ground in Rajkot, Modi said his government trusts the people and added that after he became the prime minister in 2015, his government repealed 5,000 archaic laws and had done away with 40,000 compliance requirements. He also said that his government did away with the requirement of getting attested photocopies of documents and also started becoming guarantors of small time traders and even vegetable vendors so that they can get bank loans through Mudra and PM Swanidhi schemes.“During the Congress era, there was no trust in people. It didn’t trust the people. Government used to function in its own way even as people would struggle. We have changed this situation and there is a huge difference…,” Modi said adding that the Congress had the the mentality that used to prevail during the days of gulami (foreign rule).“Britishers had decided to not trust anyone in the country. This British trait was later transferred to Congress to not to trust citizens… Congress, during its rule, entangled the common man in such a way that he started believing that government was maa-baap (the provider) and that not a step can be taken without the concurrence of the government. Congress wanted that the country’s poor, middle class, trader, businessmen continue making rounds of (offices of) of Congress leaders and government,” Modi said.Adding that the BJP runs the government in a way in which those who need government shouldn’t feel the absence of it and those who don’t need it shouldn’t find it blocking their way unnecessarily, he said, “We have always believed in trusting the people of this country as they love the country as much as we do and mean good to the country.” He cited it as the reason behind the government doing away with the requirement of interviews for filling Class III and Class IV positions.In Jamnagar, the PM said, “I have got one more opportunity to seek blessings of Lord Dwarikadhis and darshan of you all.”

Gujarat Assembly Elections: This poll to make Gujarat touch new heights says PM Modi