Blacklisted firm awarded Metro project worth Rs 5000 crore
On Tuesday, when the Bombay High Court cancelled projects awarded to a firm blacklisted by the BMC for substandard work, the firm managed to score a mammoth Metro project worth Rs 5000 crore.
During a BMC probe of 34 city roads in April, the civic body had found irregularities in all of them and blacklisted the eight contractors that had worked on them. J Kumar Infraprojects Ltd and RPS Infraprojects Pvt Ltd were among the blacklisted firms. Despite that, the Standing Committee of the BMC had awarded 4 contracts to the aforementioned firms.
A division bench of Justice S Kemkar and Justice M S Karnik was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) questioned the civic body’s decision to award contracts to J Kumar Infraprojects Ltd and RPS Infraprojects Pvt Ltd.
The bench observed, “The decision taken by the civic body in our considered view is intended to favour the contractors. In the circumstances, the same is undoubtedly arbitrary, unreasonable. Therefore when illegality, arbitrariness and favoritism is apparent on the face of record, we have no option but to allow this petition and quash the decision.”
The civic body’s lawyers argued that the firms were not blacklisted while the tender process was underway. They also added the since the work was critical and time bound, it was against public interest to further delay the project by re-initiating the tender process.
The argument, however, didn’t fly with Justice Karnik who passed the judgement, “We are satisfied that larger public interest required that before actually awarding the contract, the BMC should have waited for action of issuance of show cause notice for blacklisting or at least the decision of suspension of registration instead of hurriedly awarding the contract to both the contractors projecting public interest.”
Incidentally, J Kumar Infraprojects Ltd was awarded a project worth Rs 4935 crore by the state government-owned Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) on Tuesday while the HC hearing was underway, highlighting their willingness to continue working with tainted contractors.
The MMRC, however, justified their decision by claiming that it followed the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) guidelines to ascertain which contractor could apply and contractors blacklisted by the BMC were eligible to apply. The Colaba-Seepz Metro project is funded by JICA.
Speaking on the development, an activist said, “Government projects have always witnessed rampant corruption. The High Court cancelled the firm’s project because of their track record. But that isn’t bothering the Metro authorities who have willingly awarded the same firm a project worth Rs 5000 crore. There is a nexus between the babus, politicians and contractors which ensures that the corrupt continue to get more work as long as they are willing to keep a cut aside. The public who is paying for these contracts is the one that suffers eventually.”