Contractors who repaired Morbi bridge not qualified for such work: Prosecution tells court 

November 02, 2022 09:10 pm | Updated 09:13 pm IST

NDRF personnel in Morbi town of Gujarat on November 2, 2022 prepare to leave on a search mission in the Machchhhu river, the site of a cable bridge that collapsed on October 30, 2022.

NDRF personnel in Morbi town of Gujarat on November 2, 2022 prepare to leave on a search mission in the Machchhhu river, the site of a cable bridge that collapsed on October 30, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

The contractors who carried out repairs of the ill-fated suspension bridge at Morbi in Gujarat were not qualified to carry out such jobs, the prosecution told a court in Morbi.

While the bridge flooring was replaced, its cable was not replaced and it could not take the weight of the changed flooring, the prosecution, citing a forensic report, told the magistrate’s court on November 1.

The collapse of the bridge on October 30 evening claimed at least 140 lives. Chief Judicial Magistrate M.J. Khan remanded four of the arrested accused — two managers of the OREVA Group and two sub-contractors who had repaired the bridge — in police custody till November 5.

The court remanded five other arrested men, including security guards and ticket booking clerks, in judicial custody as police did not seek their custody, prosecutor H.S. Panchal said.

Police had on October 31 booked nine persons under Indian Penal Code Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder). The four accused remanded in police custody were OREVA managers Dipak Parekh and Dinesh Dave, and repairing contractors Prakash Parmar and Devang Parmar, hired by the OREVA Group.

Citing a Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) report, Panchal told the court that forensic experts believed the main cable of the bridge snapped because of the weight of the new flooring.

“Though the FSL report was presented in a sealed cover, it was mentioned during the remand plea that cables of the bridge were not replaced during the renovation and only the flooring was changed...the weight of the bridge increased due to the four-layered aluminium sheets for the flooring and the cable snapped due to that weight,” Panchal told reporters.

The court was also informed that both the repairing contractors were “not qualified” to carry out such a work. “Despite that, these contractors were given the bridge repair work in 2007 and then in 2022. So the accused’s custody was needed to find out what was the reason for choosing them and at whose instance they were chosen,” the prosecutor said.

DMK calls opposition parties to sign joint memorandum calling for dismissal of Tamil Nadu Governor  

The DMK has asked opposition parties to sign a common petition addressed to President of India Droupadi Murmu calling for immediate removal of Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi with a running battle between him and the state government over a host of issues.

DMK Lok Sabha MP T.R. Baalu has written a letter to all opposition parties, urging them to sign the joint memorandum seeking Ravi’s expulsion. The Congress has agreed to sign the memorandum, while the other opposition parties are yet to make their stand clear.

Speaking to The Hindu, Congress General Secretary in-charge Communications Jairam Ramesh said, “Governors who abide by their Constitutional role are now extinct species. Each one appointed since 2014 has been a disgrace and has danced to the tune of ‘hum do’ even before that tune has even been played.”

The DMK’s letter comes at a time of growing chorus against the office of Governor. The CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury addressing a press conference in the capital on Monday too had urged the like minded opposition parties to come together for a joint protest against the alleged “undemocratic and anti-Constitutional” acts of Governors.

In Kerala too, the Left front government is locked in a bitter and a very public fight with the Governor Arif Mohammad Khan. Communist Party of India General Secretary D Raja recently had called for abolishing the post of Governor calling it redundant in a Parliamentary democracy.

ED summons Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren in money laundering case 

The Enforcement Directorate has summoned Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren for recording his statement in connection with an illegal mining case on Thursday.

The agency has asked Soren to appear before the investigating team in Ranchi.

In the same case, the ED had earlier arrested three accused persons, including Soren’s political representative Pankaj Mishra.

The money laundering probe was initiated based on a First Information Report registered at the Barharwa police station in Jharkhand’s Sahibganj against Mishra and others. More cases alleging illegal mining later came under its purview. The agency claims to have detected proceeds of alleged crime worth over ₹100 crore so far.

The ED has seized ₹5.34 crore in cash, ₹13.32 crore lying in 50 bank accounts, and one inland vessel worth ₹30 crore, apart from several stone crushers and trucks.

India-U.K. Free Trade Agreement will ‘tighten the screws on producing and supplying’ generic medicines from India, says Doctors Without Borders

The proposals on intellectual property (IP) rights in the draft India-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will hurt the global supply of generic medicines, Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) warned on Wednesday.

In a press note, the international organisation said low medicine prices help save lives in vulnerable communities across the world but the intellectual property chapter of the India-U.K. FTA contains “harmful IP provisions”. The IP-related chapter, leaked on October 31, showed that the controversial provisions tabled by the U.K. will “tighten the screws on producing, supplying and exporting affordable generic medicines from India”.

“Given the disastrous consequences, this leaked IP chapter could have on the global supply of generic medicines, the U.K. government should withdraw it completely. India should stay vigilant and not allow barriers to affordable medicines to be written into FTA negotiations,” Leena Menghaney, South Asia head of MSF’s Access Campaign, said.

In a “Fact Sheet”, MSF has argued that the demand for “harmonisation” of Indian patent law with the U.K.’s laws will lead to dilution of important provisions in the Indian patent system that are necessary for manufacturing generic medicines and vaccines.

“Article E.10 of the leaked IP chapter stipulates that both parties “shall not” make patent opposition proceedings available BEFORE the grant of a patent. In effect, this provision applies only to India as the U.K. does not have a pre-grant opposition system -- this goes directly against the current Indian patent law, which allows patent opposition proceedings both before and after the grant of a patent,” the MSF said in its observations on the IP provisions.

MSF pointed out that under the proposals from the U.K., even treatment providers could be subjected to legal actions for prescribing generic medicines for which India is one of the largest manufacturing hubs. MSF said that the IP provisions brought up by the U.K. opened up possibilities for “excessive enforcement” that are likely to create difficulties for both Indian pharmaceutical companies as well as the legal set-up.

MSF highlighted that another problematic provision is Article J.11 of the leaked IP chapter. Under this provision, Customs officials could block legitimate medicines from leaving India for other developing countries if a multinational pharmaceutical corporation was to claim that their patents were being infringed upon by the Indian product. “Furthermore, Article J.5 and J.7 prescribe how courts should adjudicate IP disputes, which could impact [Indian] judicial discretion,” MSF said.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has not yet responded to the points raised by MSF. 

Editors Guild urges police for ‘impartial’ probe into complaints against The Wire 

The Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Wednesday urged the Delhi Police to be objective and impartial in investigating all the complaints filed against The Wire news portal, asking them not use “intimidatory tactics in disregard of democratic principles”.

In a statement, the Guild said it was disturbed by the manner in which Delhi Police Crime Branch carried out search and seizures at the homes of founding editors and senior editors of The Wire, as well as their office and the newsroom in Delhi on October 31.

The Prem Court building, the residence The Wire Founding Editor Sidharth Bhatia, at Churchgate in Mumbai on November 1, 2022.

The Prem Court building, the residence The Wire Founding Editor Sidharth Bhatia, at Churchgate in Mumbai on November 1, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

“The searches were carried out in a follow up to a First Information Report (FIR), registered in response to a complaint filed on October 29, by the BJP national spokesperson and head of the party IT cell, Amit Malviya, against the news organisation. The haste with which the police searches were carried out at multiple locations, is excessive and disproportionate, and in the manner of a fishing and roving enquiry,” it said.

The EGI said as per a statement published by The Wire, the police personnel seized phones, computers, and iPads from homes of the journalists, as well as from the office, and no hash value of the digital devices was given in spite of requests made by them.

“This is a serious violation of procedures and rules of investigation. Moreover, digital devices of editors and journalists would have sensitive information pertaining to journalistic sources and stories under work, the confidentiality of which can be seriously compromised in such seizures,” said the Guild.

Noting that The Wire had already admitted to serious lapses in its reporting on the stories pertaining to Meta with references to Malviya, the EGI said: “These lapses are condemnable and the reports based on wrong information have since been withdrawn by The Wire. However, these police search and seizures in violation of established rules and in intimidatory manner is also alarming,” it said.

The Guild urged the law enforcement agencies to strictly adhere to rules of investigation in this matter, and to ensure that integrity of sensitive journalistic information was not violated and other on-going work of the news organisation was not obstructed.

In Brief: 

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday announced he will attend the U.N. climate change conference, reversing an initial decision not to go because of “pressing domestic commitments”. Sunak’s original decision not to attend the gathering in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh drew the ire of environmental campaigners. But a U-turn was hinted at on Tuesday when his spokesman said the decision was “under review” and after reports that Boris Johnson would attend. Johnson, who hosted last year’s COP26 meeting in Glasgow, on Tuesday night confirmed he would be in Egypt after receiving an invitation from the hosts.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.  

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