The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday directed Morbi-based Oreva Group, the company that maintained the Morbi suspension bridge which collapsed killing at least 140 people in October last year, to pay ₹10 lakh as “interim” compensation to the kin of each deceased and ₹2 lakh to each injured within four weeks.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Sonia Gokani and Justice Sandeep Bhatt gave the direction to the company during the hearing, in a suo motu petition regarding the incident.
In a heart-wrenching tragedy, the British-era suspension bridge on the Machchhu river in Morbi collapsed on October 30 last year, killing 140 persons and injuring 56 others.
The Oreva Group, which manufactures wall clocks and electronic appliances, was given the contract to repair, renovate and operate the bridge— a local tourist attraction in Morbi.
On Tuesday, during a hearing of a suo motu PIL admitted last year following the tragedy, Ajanta Manufacturing Ltd. (Oreva Group) had offered to pay ₹5 lakh compensation to the kin of those who died and ₹1 lakh to the injured persons.
However, in the interim order, the court said the Central and the State governments had together provided ₹10 lakh compensation to the kin of each victim so far.
Advocate K. R. Koshti, who represented the victims, had said that several families had lost their bread-winning members, and many children and women were left to fend for themselves after the disaster.
The court also noted in its order that the company had offered to take responsibility of seven children who were orphaned in the tragedy.
“They (company) will pay for education and hold their hand till they find footing in the society,” the court said.
The Bench had earlier made it clear that Oreva’s offer of compensation “will not absolve it of any liability.”
The Oreva Group, led by its MD Jaysukh Patel, was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the bridge where hundreds of tourists visited it daily.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the State Government has pointed out several lapses on the part of the firm, which had reopened the bridge without substantial repairs of its structural base and wires.
The Morbi Police have already arrested 10 accused, including Oreva Group’s MD Jaysukh Patel, under Indian Penal Code (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 under 338 (causing grievous hurt by doing rash or negligent act).