Monday, June 5, 2023

Bombay High Court disposes PIL against contract issued to private company dealing with Kondhane Irrigation Dam Project

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The Bombay High Court disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed against the contract being issued to Respondent No.1 (private company) concerning Kondhane Irrigation Dam Project on the Ulhas River in Raigad District of Maharashtra.

The contention of the Petitioner was that the tender was accepted with a four fold increase in the cost. The challenge was on various grounds such as cartelisation, no permission concerning environmental regulations, corruption, clearance for development on forest land, projects being kept on shelf and so on.

The PIL was filed in the first week of April 2012. The Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice S.V.Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep V. Marne noted that immediately upon filing of the PIL, the contract with Respondent No.1 was cancelled by the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC). It is not disputed that the Kondhane Irrigation Dam Project has now been handed over to the CIDCO.

It is noted by the High Court that the contract with Respondent No.1 was terminated. Respondent No.1 has filed Petition challenging the cancellation of the contract. There were various orders passed from time to time by this Court. In the Petition filed by the Contractor, the Petitioner also claimed payment of amount.

Further the Court noted that the KIDC had filed an affidavit in the Petition of 2013 filed by the Contractor stating that the amount would be paid by them. Since the same amount was not paid, a Contempt Petition was filed. In the said Contempt Petition, show cause notice was issued by this Court. The same was assailed by the KIDC and others before the Apex Court who directed the High Court to decide the petition, PIL and any connected matter pending with respect to the PIL, together as expeditiously as possible preferably within a period of six.

The Government has issued a Government Resolution dated 18th August 2017 handing over the project to the CIDCO and the CIDCO has deposited an amount of Rs.99.15 crores with the State Government.

Mihir Desai, Senior Advocate for the Petitioner in PIL submits that subsequently, during pendency of the PIL, criminal cases were registered against the contractor and the concerned officials. All the accused therein i.e. the Contractor and the other Officials have been discharged. The Senior Advocate further submits that the Chitale Committee was appointed and a report is submitted. The Committee had reported some irregularities. Same was placed in the Assembly and an action taken report about concerned irregularities was undertaken and thereafter the criminal cases were filed against the contractor and the concerned officials. The Court has discharged the Contractor and the concerned Officials. It is submitted that while discharging, the Chitale Committee report was also considered.

In other Petitions filed by the Petitioner regarding the contracts awarded by the KIDC, the Court, under order dated 8th June 2021 in Petition of 2017 with connected Petitions and Interim Applications, had passed an order disposing of the Applications recording the statement of the State Government and the KIDC that the project can be implemented without further legal hindrance.

Surel Shah , the Advocate for the Petitioner in Petition of 2013, on instructions, submits that, even today also, the Petitioner is ready to execute the project at the same cost.

Having regard to the stand of the KIDC and the Government and that the Petitioner is ready to do the work at the same cost, the Court granted liberty to the CIDCO to execute the instant project through the Petitioner or other interested party by following due process. As far as the payment is concerned, the CIDCO has deposited an amount of Rs.99.15 Crores with the State Government.

The State Government shall take steps with regard to the payment, as may be permissible and which according to the State Government, the Petitioner would be entitled to. The said decision shall be taken preferably within three months , the Bench directed.

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