An Ahmedabad sessions court on Monday granted bail to three directors of Ajay Engi-Infrastructure Private Limited (AEIPL), the firm that was awarded the tender and contract for the Hatkeshwar Bridge.
The bridge was damaged within four years of being opened to the public, revealing huge lapses in maintenance.
AEIPL chairman Ramesh Patel (69), his sons Kalpesh (43) and Chirag (46), and another director Rasikbhai Patel (61) are facing charges under IPC sections 406 and 409 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) in an FIR lodged by the Khokhra police station in April.
Chirag, Rasikbhai, and Ramesh had moved bail pleas before the Ahmedabad sessions court after the chargesheet was filed.
The three have been directed to be released upon furnishing surety of Rs 1 lakh each.
The court of additional sessions judge Paresh Sayani took into account the submissions on behalf of the accused, represented by advocate Sanjay Thakkar, that there was a fundamental design flaw in the bridge. The design was made by a company called DELF and AEIPL only received the design in parts during the construction of the bridge.
It was also submitted by the accused that Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and the project management consultant SGS India Private Limited inspected the flyover on a routine basis during construction, carried out necessary checks as per the quality assurance plan, and thereafter work completion certificate was issued by AMC in 2018 with eight officials of AMC mentioning that the work is carried out as per specification.
The accused also submitted that in addition to faulty design which did not adhere to prescribed codes to prevent cracking, heavy vehicles would also ply which the bridge was not suited for, and further caused degradation of the bridge.
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Noting that “it appears that poor designing can be one of the factors for damage to the bridge,” and that “as many as 85 tests were carried out during the erection of this bridge,” the court observed that at that time “all the quality standard was certified and approved by SGS and Corporation (AMC) also. It also appears that the outcome of all these running tests during erection was approved even by higher officials of the Corporation and even they have approved all tests and the bill raised by the present Company was approved and even paid by the Corporation.”
Noting that the quality of materials used was “never disputed”, the court noted, “there may be other basic defects in the bridge.
” The court also observed that there was a “fundamental violation of natural justice by the IO as samples for testing were not drawn in the presence of company officials. “It prima facie appears that drawing of such samples in the absence of the accused is per se illegal activity and he ought to have offered an opportunity to participate in the drawing of samples,” the court noted.