Morbi Bridge Collapse: Death toll mounts to 132; 9 from OREVA group arrested 

October 31, 2022 09:00 pm | Updated 09:00 pm IST

People gather to watch search operations in the Machchu river where a pedestrian bridge collapsed Sunday in Morbi town in Gujarat on October 31, 2022.

People gather to watch search operations in the Machchu river where a pedestrian bridge collapsed Sunday in Morbi town in Gujarat on October 31, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

The death toll in Morbi suspension bridge collapse rose to 132 on Monday, Gujarat Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi said, adding that rescue personnel are looking for two persons believed missing. “The rescue operation is in its last stage in the Machchhu river. It will be over soon,” the minister told reporters, PTI reported.

“As per the latest information, 132 people lost their lives in the tragedy and two are still missing,” the minister said. The state information department said that five teams of NDRF, six platoons of SDRF, a team of Air Force, two columns of Army, and two teams of Indian Navy apart from local rescue teams were involved in the operation that continued through the night.

Meanwhile, nine persons of the OREVA group, involved in the maintenance and management of the bridge, were arrested on October 31 in connection with the collapse of the cable suspension bridge. Police have registered an FIR on charges of culpable homicide against agencies given the task of maintenance and operation of the bridge.

The over a century-old bridge, which had reopened five days ago after extensive repairs and renovation, was crammed with people when it collapsed around 6.30 pm on Sunday. Sanghavi told reporters at Morbi, around 300 km from the state capital, that the state government has formed a committee to probe the collapse.

Eyewitnesses said there were several women and children on the British era “hanging bridge” when it snapped, plunging them into the water below. Some people were seen jumping on the bridge and pulling its big wires, an eyewitness said, adding the bridge may have collapsed due to the “huge crowd” on it.

After the collapse, all that remained of the bridge was part of the metal carriageway hanging down from one end into the dark water, its thick cables snapped in places.

At the local hospital people formed a human chain to hold back crowds and keep the road clear for ambulances which brought those rescued.

Sanghavi said a five-member high-powered committee has been formed to probe the bridge collapse. It includes Roads and Buildings department secretary Sandeep Vasava and four other senior officers.

An FIR was lodged in the bridge collapse under Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (intentional act causing death) and 114 (abettor present when offence committed), against whoever is found responsible, Sanghavi said.

Due to the Diwali vacation and being a Sunday, there was a rush of tourists on the bridge, a major tourist attraction.

A private operator had carried out the repair work of the bridge for nearly six months before it was reopened to the public on the Gujarati New Year Day on October 26.

It was opened to the public after the completion of the renovation work. But the local municipality had not yet issued any fitness certificate (after the renovation work), an official said.

Anyone conducting ‘two-finger’ test on sexual assault survivors will be held guilty of misconduct: Supreme Court 

The Supreme Court on October 31 declared that any person conducting the invasive ‘two-finger’ or ‘three-finger’ vaginal test on rape or sexual assault survivors will be found guilty of misconduct.

In a judgment, a Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said the sole reason behind using the test on traumatised sexual assault survivors is to see whether the woman or girl was “habituated” to sexual intercourse.

Such a “concern” was irrelevant to whether she was raped or not. “Previous sexual experience is immaterial to the question of conduct,” Justice Chandrachud held.

The faulty logic behind the test was that “a woman cannot be believed when she said she was raped merely for the reason that she was sexually active”, the court said.

The court said the legislature had amended the criminal law in 2013 to introduce Section 53A in the Indian Evidence Act.

“In terms of Section 53A, the evidence of a victim’s character or her previous sexual experience with any person shall not be relevant to the issue of consent or the quality of consent in the prosecution of sexual offences,” the court held.

The Bench noted that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had issued guidelines for health providers in cases of sexual violence. “These guidelines have proscribed the application of the two-finger test,” the judgment noted.

In the present case, the two-finger test was conducted a decade ago. “But it is regrettable that it [two-finger test] continues even today,” the court underscored. The court directed the Centre and the State Governments to ensure that the Ministry’s guidelines were followed to the letter.

The court ordered that the guidelines be circulated to private and government hospitals.

It said workshops should be held for health providers to prevent the test from being conducted on rape survivors. The court said the curriculum in medical schools should be revised. It ordered copies of the judgment to be handed over to the Health Ministry, which should be circulated to the health and home departments of the States. The home departments should circulate the judgment to the Director Generals of Police in the States.

“Any person who conducts the two-finger test in sexual assault cases shall be guilty of misconduct,” the court ordered.

Supreme Court to examine plea challenging Centre’s decision to link electoral roll data with Aadhaar

The Supreme Court on October 31 agreed to examine a plea challenging the Centre’s decision that enables linking electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem.

A Bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and Abhay S. Oka tagged the petition filed by former Major General S.G. Vombatkere with a similar pending matter. “Petitioner has drawn attention to 2019 Aadhaar judgment to contend that only if some benefit is sought to be conferred then Aadhaar can be mandatory but not to deny rights, and the right to vote is the highest of such rights.

“Two other petitions have also been filed by him and there may be some overlapping. Thus, this requires tagging. Tag this petition with that matter,” the Bench said.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that right to vote is one of the most sacred rights and it should not be denied if an individual lacks Aadhaar. The Centre had earlier amended the Registration of Electors Rules to allow linking Aadhaar details with a voters list to weed out duplicate entries and make election law gender neutral for service voters.

SC decides to examine poll law which deprives under trials, civil prison detainees their right to vote 

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to examine a petition challenging a provision in the election law that imposes a blanket ban on under trials, persons confined in civil prisons and convicts serving their sentence in jails from casting their votes.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit issued notice to the Union of India, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Election Commission of India on a petition filed by Aditya Prasanna Bhattacharya, a student of National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, who said that while convicts out on bail could vote, under trials, whose innocence or guilt has not been conclusively determined, and those confined in civil persons were deprived of their right to vote.

Bhattacharya, represented by advocate Zoheb Hossain, argued that Section 62(5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, mandates that “no person shall vote at any election if he is confined in a prison, whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise, or is in the lawful custody of the police”.

Hossain contended that the provision arbitrarily, through the use of “excessively broad language”, disenfranchises a large segment of the population of the country.

The latest National Crime Reports Bureau (NCRB) report of 2021 shows that a total of 5,54,034 prisoners were confined as on December 31, 2021 in various jails across the country. The number of convicts, undertrial inmates and detenues were reported as 1,22,852, 4,27,165 and 3,470, respectively, accounting for 22.2%, 77.1% and 0.6% respectively at the end of 2021. The number of undertrial prisoners has increased from 3,71,848 in 2020 to 4,27,165 in 2021. A hike of 14.9%. Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of undertrials (21.2%, 90,606 undertrials) in the country followed by Bihar (13.9%, 59,577 undertrials) and Maharashtra (7.4%, 31,752 undertrials) at the end of last year.

The petition said that “denying penitentiary inmates the right to vote is more likely to send messages that undermine respect for the law and democracy than messages that enhance those values… Denying the right to vote does not comply with the requirements for legitimate punishment”.

It said the yardstick of confinement in a prison to disenfranchise persons generates several anomalous and shocking consequences. One of them is that even a judgment-debtor (a person who has not paid his debt despite a court verdict) who has been arrested and detained in a civil person is deprived of her right to vote. Detainment in civil prisons is unlike imprisonment for crimes. Robbing a person confined in a civil prison of the right to vote is plainly discriminatory.

The ban lacks reasonable classification based on the nature of the crime or duration of the sentence imposed unlike in countries like South Africa, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Greece, Canada, etc. “This lack of classification is anathema to the fundamental right to equality under Article 14 (right to equality),” the petition pointed out.

Again, Bhattacharya highlighted, if a convicted person can vote if she is out on bail, why is the same right denied to an under trial who is not yet found guilty of a crime by a court of law.

“It cannot be conceived how the provision, which deprives prisoners of their right to vote, has any nexus at all with decriminalisation of politics, which is concerned with the right to contest of candidates with criminal antecedents,” the petition questioned the logic behind the election law. The right to vote is a constitutional right under Article 326 of the Constitution.

‘Blue tick’ fee report: Onus on Twitter to stop spread of misinformation, says Rajeev Chandrasekhar 

Twitter is abuzz with reports that users will have to shell out a $20 fee for the ‘blue tick’, which authenticates the identity of the account holder, and a failure pay the amount will result in the coveted status being withdrawn.

Refuting the reports, Union Minister of State for Electronics and Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar told ANI, “I do not think this is true. This is a challenge for Twitter. They need to see how this miscommunication is being circulated on the platform. I do not think such reports are true.”

Elon Musk’s account and the Twitter logo are seen in this illustration taken October 28, 2022.

Elon Musk’s account and the Twitter logo are seen in this illustration taken October 28, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

According to media reports, Elon Musk, the new CEO of Twitter, is planning to charge users $19.99 (over ₹1,600) for the new Twitter Blue subscription that brings extra features like edit and undo tweets.

Under the current plan, verified users would have 90 days to subscribe or lose their blue checkmark. Employees working on the project were told that they need to meet a deadline of November 7 to launch the feature or they will be fired.

The particular report comes a day after Musk, in a tweet, mentioned that Twitter will revise its user verification process. However, he did not reveal any detail related to the charges.”Whole verification process is being revamped right now”, he tweeted. The Twitter Blue subscription launched widely almost a year ago as a way to view ad-free articles from some publishers and make other tweaks to the app, such as a different colour home screen icon.

RBI Digital Rupee pilot for wholesale segment from November 1 

The first pilot in the Digital Rupee, Wholesale segment (e₹-W) will commence on November 1, 2022, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in a circular. “The use case for this pilot is settlement of secondary market transactions in government securities. Use of e₹-W is expected to make the inter-bank market more efficient. Settlement in central bank money would reduce transaction costs by pre- empting the need for settlement guarantee infrastructure or for collateral to mitigate settlement risk,” the circular said.

“Going forward, other wholesale transactions, and cross-border payments will be the focus of future pilots, based on the learnings from this pilot,” it added.

Nine banks namely State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Yes Bank, IDFC First Bank and HSBC have been identified for participation in the pilot.

The first pilot in Digital Rupee — Retail segment (e₹-R) is planned for roll out within a month in select locations in closed user groups comprising customers and merchants. The details regarding operationalisation of e₹-R pilot will be communicated in due course.

The RBI on Monday also released a Concept Note on Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) for India. The purpose behind the issue of this Concept Note is to create awareness about CBDCs in general and the planned features of the Digital Rupee (e₹), in particular.

It explains the objectives, choices, benefits, and risks of issuing a CBDC in India. The Note also seeks to explain Reserve Bank’s approach towards introduction of the CBDC.

The Concept Note also discusses key considerations such as technology and design choices, possible uses of Digital Rupee, issuance mechanisms, etc. It examines the implications of introduction of CBDC on the banking system, monetary policy, financial stability, and analyses privacy issues.

In Brief:

One unidentified militant was killed and two others were arrested in two separate anti-militancy operations in Kashmir, security forces said on October 31. The J&K police said one Pakistani militant, who had infiltrated into the Valley, got neutralised by the Army in the Keran Sector’s Jumagund area in Kupwara district on October 31. The Keran Sector is closer to the Line of Control (LoC).

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.  

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.