The Gujarat High Court on Thursday said that the compensation announced for victims of the Morbi bridge collapse was not enough and told the authorities to increase the amount, reported Live Law.
On October 30, a colonial-era bridge on the Machchu river had collapsed, killing 141 persons. The tragedy took place just four days after the bridge was reopened for the public following seven months of renovation.
The authorities have announced Rs 4 lakh as compensation to the families of those who died in the accident, Rs 50,000 to those who were injured and Rs 3,000 per month to children who have lost their parents.
“A family [of the deceased] should at least get Rs 10 lakhs as compensation,” the High Court said on Thursday. “...The compensation proposed to be paid to the family of the deceased and other seriously injured people is concerned, it is abysmally on the lower side. The compensation must be realistic. We hope and trust, this would be raised.”
On the compensation being given to children, the court said that it was insufficient as the amount would get spent in buying books and school uniform only. Seven children had become orphans and 12 lost one of their parents in the tragedy.
The High Court also sought details of the break-up of all the amounts received to provide compensation as to how much is from the chief minister’s relief fund, the prime minister’s relief fund, and how much has been donated by private individuals.
‘Civic body ignored warnings about condition of bridge’
The High Court also noted that the Morbi civic body was more interested about the price of tickets and retention of contract than about warnings that the bridge was in a critical condition, as told by private contractor Ajanta.
The contract for renovation of the bridge was given to Oreva Group, a subsidiary of watchmaker company Ajanta.
Noting that the agreement signed between the Morbi municipality and Ajanta on March 8 had not been approved by the general body of the civic body, the High Court asked why did the state government not use its power under Section 263 of the Gujarat Municipality Act to supersede the municipality.
This provision allows the state government to dissolve a civic body in cases of abuse of power among other violations.
However, the High Court did not make any further observations as the state submitted that it was waiting for the Special Investigation Report to submit its report on this matter before making any decision.
It also directed the state government to conduct a survey of similar bridges and thoroughly check whether they are in the proper condition.
“It is high time that all the officials who are either monitoring, managing, controlling, and administering such bridges across the state should ensure that the bridges in their jurisdiction are in proper condition, and if not, remedial measures should be taken,” the High Court ordered. “How many similar bridges are in Gujarat, the state has to submit a report on this within 10 days.”