September 28, 2023

Times One Odia

Odia News Portal

Morbi Bridge Tragedy: Meet Utkarsh Dave, Lawyer Working To Get Justice To Victims

2 min read

At least 135 people lost their lives and over 180 were injured on October 30, 2022, when the pedestrian suspension bridge over the Machchhu River in Gujarat’s Morbi district collapsed.

The bridge had reopened just five days earlier after undergoing repairs, which had caused a prolonged closure. Shockingly, the number of people on the bridge at the time of the collapse exceeded its official capacity of 125 by a significant margin.

As per initial reports, the bridge was reopened without obtaining the necessary certificate of fitness from the local civic authorities. The chief officer of the municipality, responsible for overseeing the repairs, confirmed that the private firm responsible for the renovations “threw the bridge open to visitors without notifying us, and therefore, we couldn’t get a safety audit of the bridge conducted.”

Utkarsh Dave, a criminal lawyer practicing in the Gujarat High Court, filed a writ in the Supreme Court, representing victims’ families.

Acting on the Public Interest Litigation, the top court later issued a set of guidelines, including the need for an independent investigation into acts/omissions that would constitute criminal wrongdoing, the need to hold officials of the Nagar Palika responsible; and the need to ensure that the agency responsible for maintaining the bridge and its management is held accountable, including making arrests during the investigation.

Dave’s efforts resulted in an increase in compensation provided by the government, with Ajanta Manufacturing Ltd. (Oreva Group) offering to pay additional compensation to the families of those who died or were injured. Dave filed various documents in court, leading to a directive from the Gujarat High Court ordering the Oreva Group to pay an interim compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of each deceased and Rs 2 lakh to each injured within four weeks. The court also noted that the company had offered to take responsibility for seven children orphaned in the tragedy.

“This fight is not merely about compensation. I haven’t taken a penny from anyone for this PIL. It’s not about the money, but about uncovering the truth. How was the tender awarded to a company without a bridge maintenance certificate or other required documents?” Utkarsh Dave said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *