Jaysukh Patel, the Managing Director of the Oreva group -- the firm hired for the maintenance and repair of the bridge in Gujarat's Morbi which collapsed in October, killing 135 people -- surrendered at a local court today. A warrant for his arrest was out last week after he was named prime accused in the case. Patel has been missing since the incident and had filed an appeal for bail to evade arrest. The court has sent him to jail for tonight. The police will seek his custody in court tomorrow.
Oreva Group, makers of wall clocks under the Ajanta brand, was given the contract for the renovation, operation, and maintenance of the British-era suspension bridge over the Machchhu River. On October 30, four days after it reopened, the bridge collapsed after the cables broke. The police said around 300 people were on the bridge at the time.
A special investigation team formed by the state government has cited multiple lapses on part of the firm.
Forensic tests have revealed that rusty cables, broken anchor pins, and loose bolts were not replaced during the renovation. The report from the Forensic Science Laboratory also said the group did not hire any expert agency to assess the load-bearing capacity of the bridge before opening it to the public.
During a hearing in court last week, the company said it maintained the structure as part of "philanthropic activities" and not as a "commercial venture".
Jaysukh Patel is the 10th accused to be arrested in the case. Those arrested earlier include sub-contractors, daily wage labourers who worked as ticket clerks, and security guards.
The delay in his arrest triggered allegation that the state's BJP government was shielding the politically influential industrialist ahead of the assembly elections, in which it won a sweeping victory. The opposition Congress claims the "big fish" are yet to be netted.
While the group has announced compensations for the families which lost their loved ones, the Gujarat High Court has said it would not "absolve it of any liability, either directly or vicariously".
The high court has also pulled up Morbi's civic body, saying it has failed to disclose how the Oreva Group was permitted to use the bridge from December 29, 2021 till it was closed on March 7, 2022.