Nearly three months after a British-era bridge crashed in Gujarat's Morbi, killing 135 people, Jaysukh Patel, the top boss of the company hired for the maintenance and repair of the bridge, has been named the prime accused in a charge-sheet.
Jaysukh Patel, the promoter of Oreva Group and managing director of Ajanta Manufacturing Limited, has been missing since the incident in October. A warrant was put out for his arrest last week. To evade arrest, he filed a request for bail on January 16.
A 1,262-page charge-sheet names him as the main accused and an "absconder".
"All steps are being taken to arrest him as soon as possible. He is untraceable right now," said senior police officer Ashok Yadav.
Oreva Group, a company known for making wall clocks under the Ajanta brand, was inexplicably given the contract for the renovation, operation, and maintenance of the 100-year-old suspension bridge over the Machchhu River. The bridge collapsed on October 30, four days after it reopened.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the state government cited several lapses by the Oreva Group, like shoddy maintenance, the failure to limit the number of people on the bridge and the unrestricted sale of tickets.
The police say around 300 people were on the bridge and it collapsed when the cables snapped.
Patel is listed as the 10th accused alongside the nine arrested earlier, including the subcontractors, daily wage labourers who worked as ticket clerks, and security guards. But the opposition has alleged that the "big fish" are roaming free.
The BJP government in Gujarat faced accusations of shielding the politically influential industrialist ahead of the assembly elections, which the party swept.
The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) report on the incident revealed that rusty cables, broken anchor pins, and loose bolts were not addressed during the renovation of the bridge. The report also stated that Oreva Group did not hire any expert agency to assess the load-bearing capacity of the bridge before opening it to the public.