Date of Judgment:
11 December 2020
The State Of Kerala, the Chief Engineer, the Superintending Engineer and Saji Mathew
The petitioner contended that the selection notice was issued to the second-bidder without cancelling the selection notice issued to the petitioner.
• The questions raised before the Court was:
a) Whether the process adopted by the authority was mala fide or intended to favour someone?
b) Is the public interest is affected?
- The petitioner is an A-class contractor. On 11 June 2020, the Superintending Engineer (Respondent) issued a selection notice to him, accepting the tender at Rs.4,31,69,527.76/-.
- The petitioner was directed to execute the agreement within 14 days and a grace period of 10 days. He was also asked to produce stamp paper worth Rs.43,200/- and remit a sum of Rs.21,58,500/- towards a performance guarantee.
- On 29th June, the petitioner submitted a letter informing them that he was not in a position to travel because of the pandemic.
- Petitioner requested to extend time without liability to pay fine. To which, the respondent informed the petitioner that he would be removed from the work in case he fails to execute the agreement within seven days of receipt.
- Later, on 16th September 2020, the petitioner received a letter. It stated that since the petitioner failed to execute the agreement within the time, the negotiation was made with the second-lowest tenderer.
- The petitioner filed a writ petition stating, that the selection notice was issued to the second bidder without cancelling the selection notice issued to the petitioner.
- The respondent filed a statement, stating that the petitioner did not come forward to execute the agreement within the prescribed time. It further stated that there was no complete lockdown. About 45 agreements were signed and executed by the respective bidders during the COVID pandemic.
- Respondents produced letters according to which the petitioner has appeared in person and received orders and receipts, refunds, etc, from various offices in Kozhikode and Wayanad.
- The respondent told the Court that he had informed the petitioner about the emergency involved in completing the work.
- The petitioners did not appear before the Superintending Engineer within the time period.
- The respondent has only protected public interest by awarding the work to the 2nd lowest bidder.
- The fact that the petitioner did not get a separate communication, cannot be ground or cancelling the work awarded to the other bidder especially when the work has progressed to about 30% to 40% within less than two months.
- There was not even a concluded contract between the petitioner and the respondent.
- The Court stated that it would not interfere if the decision relating to the award of the contract is in the public interest.
- The power of judicial review will not be invoked to protect private interest at the cost of public interest.
- The Court concluded that the petitioner does not deserve any relief. Hence, the Writ petition was dismissed.
The power of judicial review should not be invoked to decide contractual disputes. The tenderer can always seek damages in a civil court. Such interferences by tenderers may hold up public works for years. It would delay relief to thousands.
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