In a verdict pertaining to the Japan-funded Bullet train project, the Supreme Court on Monday said no company and even the Republic of India can be permitted to deviate from any terms and conditions of the agreements including the loan deed about the Mumbai-Ahmedabad rail project.
The top court set aside the Delhi High Court’s verdict in favour of a firm called Montecarlo Limited whose technical bid was rejected by an expert committee appointed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for several works about the Bullet train project.
A bench comprising Justices M R Shah and A S Bopanna was dealing with the question whether in the facts and circumstances of the case and concerning such a foreign-funded project, the High Court was justified in “interfering with the tender process in absence of any specific allegations of mala fides and/or favouritism”.
“It is to be noted that under the contractual obligation, it was not open for the appellant corporation and/or even the Republic of India to deviate from any of the terms and conditions of the loan agreement and/or the decision of JICC/JICA. Therefore, in absence of any allegation of mala fides/arbitrariness and/or favouritism, we are of the opinion that the High Court has committed a grave error in interfering with a conscious decision taken by the JICC/JICA, which has been followed by the appellant,” the 82-page judgement said.
Justice Shah, writing the judgement for the bench, allowed the appeal of National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), set for the Bullet train project, and said that the 2021 high court verdict was “clearly unsustainable and the same deserves to be quashed”.
“It cannot be disputed that the Bullet Train Project is a very important National project. The Bullet Train Project is a fully foreign-funded project, which was envisaged when the Japanese and Indian governments entered into a Memorandum of Understanding, pursuant to which it was agreed that the said project would be fully funded by a Concessional Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan of Rs.1 lakh crores by the Japan International Cooperation Agency,” it said.
The high court had quashed the communications of April 27 and 28, 2021 by which the private firm was informed that its technical Bid has been rejected on the ground that the same is non-responsive.
NHSRCL is a government Company incorporated under the Companies Act, 2013 with equity participation of the Government of India, Government of Gujarat, and Government of Maharashtra, incorporated to finance, construct, maintain and manage the upcoming Bullet train project.
The NHSRCL had issued a tender notice on October 22, 2020, calling for bids concerning various work including ” Construction of Civil and Building Works for the Depot on Design-Build Lump Sum Price Basis for Double Line High-Speed Railway involving works for Site Formation, Abutment, Retaining Walls, Roadbed for the track, Box Culvert, Roads, Cable Duct, Foundations of OHE Masts, Piping, Drainage, Water Supply, Water Harvesting, Fire Fighting, Land-scraping, Boundary Wall, General Inspection Train Shed, Maintenance Depot and other Associated Works at Sabarmati.” The Technical Bids submitted by various bidders including Montecarlo Limited were opened by the NHSRCL on February 19, 2021, and the bid of the original writ petitioner along with four other bidders was declared unsuccessful.
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