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Morbi Tragedy: Guj HC Asks 'how Renovation Contract Granted Without Inviting Tender?'

The court asked the state government on what basis the Morbi bridge was being operated by Ajanta company after the MoU expired.
Rescue Operation After Morbi Bridge Tragedy

Rescue Operation After Morbi Bridge Tragedy. Image Courtesy: Twitter

Delhi: The Gujarat High Court, during the hearing of the suo moto case regarding the October 30 Morbi Bridge Collapse incident, raised eyebrows over how the renovation contract was granted to the Gujarat-based Ajanta Manufacturing, the Live Law reported.

"State took steps that are expected from it (after the incident), but the agreement signed b/w Morbi civic body and a private contractor (for bridge renovation) is just 1.5 pages. No tender was invited. Why contract was granted without inviting any tender?" a bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh J Shastri was quoted as asking by Live Law. The court wondered how the largesse of the state was given to Ajanta company, a part of the Oreva Group, without any tender being floated.

The high court also noted that a 2008 MoU signed between the Collector Rajkot and M/s Ajanta to operate, maintain, and manage the suspension bridge and collect rent for it expired in 2017. However, the bridge continued to be maintained by the Ajanta company.

"From 15/6/2017, for a period of two years, without there being an MoU or agreement or entrustment, the bridge in question was continued to be maintained by Ajanta company. After the said contract expired, what steps were taken by the official authorities to call for expressions of interest or float a tender for a further period is not clear from the state's affidavit," the court said, according to the report. The court asked the state government on what basis the bridge was being permitted to be operated by Ajanta company after June 2017 while the MoU was not renewed.

Further, the court noted that it is unclear who had the responsibility to certify that the bridge was fit for usage under the fresh MoU
signed in 2020.

It also asked the Gujarat government whether there was compliance with Section 65 of the Gujarat Municipality Act. It wondered why the state did not use its powers under Section 263 of the Gujarat Municipality Act as the Municipality had prima facie defaulted, which led to the unfortunate incident, according to the report.

The Gujarat High Court had taken suo moto cognisance of the "disheartening" Morbi Bridge collapse, which claimed 134 lives and
asked the state to file a status report.

According to news reports, the death toll in the collapse of the British-era bridge on the Machchhu river in Morbi in Gujarat has gone up to 134 people.

The more than a-century-old bridge, located around 300 km from state capital Gandhinagar, had reopened five days before the tragedy struck after extensive repair and renovation. It was crammed with people when it collapsed around 6.30 pm on October 30.

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