The Bombay High Court on Saturday dismissed as “devoid of merits” a plea by MEP Infrastructure Developers Ltd and Ozoneland Private Limited, the companies which as a consortium had bid for a tender floated on June 7 about appointment of toll collection operator for nearly three years at Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link (Bandra-Worli Sea Link) toll plaza.
Their bid was rejected earlier on July 6 by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation Sea Link Limited (MSRDC Seal Link Limited) as “non- responsive”, referring to the outstanding dues owed by the subsidiary companies of MEP Infra to the extent of Rs. 408.83 crore.
The firms then approached the High Court challenging the disqualification and sought their rejection to be quashed calling it “arbitrary”.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand S Karnik passed the judgement on Saturday on a petition filed by MEP Infra and Ozoneland.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Venkatesh Dhond submitted that their disqualification was perverse as one of the other two bidders had not even submitted the no dues certificate and yet their bid was not rejected.
“This was deliberate to ensure that the process does not fall through because of a single valid bid being received,” Dhond argued.
He also submitted that acceptance of financial bids of the petitioners would have resulted in respondent authorities saving money.
Senior advocate Milind Sathe representing respondents MSRDC Sea Link Ltd and MSRDCL, however, submitted that such a bidder had correctly given a declaration that it had no subsisting contract with MSRDCL and therefore no-due certificate was not insisted upon.
Sathe said that there was no illegality in rejecting the technical bid of the petitioner firms and their plea be dismissed.
“We have no hesitation in holding that this is not a case where the decision to reject the technical bid of the petitioners is either mala fide or that the decision made is so arbitrary and irrational that an authority acting reasonably and in accordance with the relevant law could never have reached such decision or that the decision is against public interest,” the bench observed.
“That apart, drawing from our judicial experience, we may unhesitatingly refer to a common trend of ineligible bidders offering a lower/higher bid than the eligible bidders and then raising a plea of how the ‘state’ would have benefited financially if its bid were accepted to arouse judicial conscience to prevent unnecessary drainage from the public exchequer. Unmeritorious pleas such as these ought not to detain us for a moment and deserve outright rejection, which we hereby do… The writ petition stands dismissed. Interim order, if any, stands vacated forthwith,” the High Court held.
The High Court rejected the petitioners’ request to stay operation of its judgement.