Court refuses further police remand, 4 sent to judicial custody

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Two managers of the Oreva group and two contractors accused in the Morbi suspension bridge collapse on October 30 that killed 135, including 55 children, were sent to judicial custody Saturday after the magisterial court refused further police remand.

The lawyer of the accused told the court that a condition for “procuring a fitness certificate” was nowhere specified in the agreement between the Morbi municipality and Oreva.

Defence lawyer Dharmendra Shukla from Ahmedabad, while arguing against further remand for two Oreva managers — Deepak Parekh and Dinesh Mahasukhrai Dave — submitted before the court of chief judicial magistrate MJ Khan that the prosecution was resorting to “suppression of information”. He added that they had failed to submit before the court that the agreement signed between Oreva Group and the Morbi municipality had not “laid down any conditions” such as procuring fitness certificate before opening of the bridge.

“There were no technical requirements laid down in the agreement… Why is the condition now being imposed on us? Under which section of which Act are they asking for fitness certificate,” submitted Shukla.

Police had sought a five-day remand for the accused for the “verification of third-party documents” and will now appeal against the order, sources told The Indian Express.

The prosecution sought police custody of the accused as certain documents from Rajkot collector’s office was yet to be received, with respect to the 2007 agreement when the bridge fell under Rajkot jurisdiction.

The prosecution also submitted that it is yet to receive other documents from Morbi municipality and Morbi collector’s office with respect to the local government’s agreements with Oreva, as well as of minutes of the meeting pertaining to the bridge and it’s maintenance between the two parties.

Citing that “the documents are in the government offices, not with the accused”, the defence submitted that further demand for police custody is a violation of Article 21 and Supreme Court guidelines in an earlier judgment.

The contract between the Morbi Municipality and Ajanta Manufacturing Pvt Ltd, owned by the Oreva Group in March this year, entrusted the entire responsibility of management of the Jhoolto Pul (suspension bridge) to the company. Only the ticket rate was decided in consultation with the Morbi district collector and the Morbi Municipality.