A court in Gujarat's Morbi town on Wednesday sent managing director of Oreva Group Jaysukh Patel in seven-day police custody in a case related to the Morbi suspension bridge collapse which claimed 135 lives last year.
Chief Judicial Magistrate MJ Khan sent Patel in the custody of the special investigation team formed by the state government to probe the case till February 8.
The SIT had sought a 14-day remand, government prosecutor Sanjay Vora told reporters.
As many as 135 people were killed and many others injured when a suspension bridge on a river collapsed in Gujarat's Morbi town on October 30, 2022.
Patel, whose company was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the bridge, surrendered before the court on Tuesday evening after the court issued an arrest warrant against him.
He was later arrested by the police.
As part of maintenance, the company carried out only cosmetic repairs of the bridge rather than changing its rusting suspension cables, the prosecution told the court, Vora said.
The investigators wanted Patel's custody to question him as to why Oreva Group continued with its work on the bridge despite knowing about its dangerous condition, the prosecutor said.
"They also wanted to know on whose instructions more than 500 visitors were allowed on the bridge by the ticket collector even when he knew that allowing more than 100 persons was dangerous," Vora said.
The charge sheet filed by the SIT mentions Patel as the tenth accused. He had filed an anticipatory (pre-arrest) bail plea which the court rejected.
Ajanta Manufacturing Ltd (also known as Oreva Group) was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the British-era suspension bridge on the Machchhu river.
When Patel arrived in the court for surrender, angry kin of the victims who had gathered outside shouted slogans against him.
On October 31, a day after the tragedy, the Morbi police arrested nine persons -- two managers of the Oreva Group, two ticket booking clerks, two sub-contractors who had repaired the bridge and three security guards deployed on the cable-stayed structure to control the crowds.
All the ten accused, including Patel, have been charged under Indian Penal Code Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 336 (act which endangers human life), 337 (causing hurt to any person by doing any rash or negligent act) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by doing rash or negligent act).
During a recent hearing on the tragedy before the Gujarat high court, the Oreva Group had offered to pay compensation to the victims. But the HC made it clear that the compensation would not absolve it of any liability.
As per the SIT, the lapses on the part of the Oreva Group included not restricting the number of persons accessing the bridge at a time as well as carrying out repairs without consulting experts.
The probe revealed that the new metal flooring laid by the contractors increased the weight of the structure while the rusted cables on which the entire bridge was suspended were not replaced.
Moreover, both the contractors hired by Patel's firm were not qualified to carry out such repair and renovation work, according to the SIT.
The probe report also revealed the Ahmedabad-based Oreva Group did not hire any expert agency to assess the load-bearing capacity of the bridge before throwing it open to the public after repair and renovation.
The group had sold 3,165 tickets on October 30 (the day of the collapse) alone, and there was no coordination between the ticket booking offices on the two ends of the bridge, the prosecution said.