BMC awards blacklisted firms 4 Mumbai projects, Bombay HC cancels them
The Bombay High Court on Tuesday cancelled multi-crore contracts awarded to two firms that were blacklisted by the BMC in May this year for substandard road repair work.
Deeming the civic body’s decision to award contracts to the tainted firms as ‘arbitrary, illegal and irrational’, the Bombay HC stayed their contracts citing that they were against public interest.
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. The contracts included the construction of Hancock Bridge in Byculla, a bridge across the Mithi river in BKC, a bridge across Lokhandwala creek in Andheri and a railway road-over-bridge at Vikhroli railway station.
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.”
The court also observed that the BMC had started on the right path by inspecting the roads, identifying the culprits and registering FIR against them. But, pulled up the civic body for allowing the firms to walk away by not suspending their licenses.