HC quashes plea against sea link toll contracthttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/hc-quashes-plea-against-sea-link-toll-contract/

HC quashes plea against sea link toll contract

MSRDC can now float fresh tender pending for nearly a year,finalise firm in a month.

The Bombay High Court has quashed a petition by Nagpur-based SMS Infrastructure Ltd,which had alleged that the MSRDC had shown undue favouritism to companies owned by the Mhaiskar brothers for the Bandra-Worli sea link toll collection contract. The firm was disqualified from bidding for the contract.

With the litigation now resolved,the MSRDC expects to reach a decision on the fresh contract for toll collection — due for nearly a year now — within

a month.

A senior MSRDC official said,“The last date for the submission of financial bids for toll collection is November 6. If there are no more hurdles,we should complete the scrutiny within a matter of days and should be able to award a fresh contract within a month.”

The MSRDC had first invited pre-qualification bids for toll collection on the sea link in December 2012. However,only two companies responded and ultimately only one – Mumbai Entry Point Limited (MEPL),which is the incumbent toll collector — could qualify.

MEPL is owned by Jayant Mhaiskar,brother of IRB’s Virendra Mhaiskar,and has been collecting toll on the sea link since it was opened to traffic in 2009. The company’s contract was to end on March 31,2013,but MSRDC extended it till the time a new contract was awarded.

The MSRDC then made sweeping changes to the bidding terms and conditions,altering the contract from a yearly-upfront basis to a monthly-upfront basis and heavily diluted the eligibility criteria. About seven to eight companies submitted pre-qualification proposals,but the MSRDC shortlisted three for final bidding. The others,including SMS Infrastructure,were disqualified due to lack of experience. The three shortlisted firms were MEPL,IRB Infrastructure and Reliance Infrastructure.

However,the bidding process was held up when SMS Infrastructure filed a petition saying the clause that the MSRDC had cited while disqualifying the firm was provided only to MEPL and IRB Infrastructure as written responses to queries they had raised.

As per the clause in the tender,a firm must have a turnover of Rs 120 crore in toll collection in any one of the last seven years,and can also show this experience through works it has undertaken through a joint venture provided it has a 26 per cent stake in it. SMS Infrastructure had shown this experience for toll collection in Delhi through a company SMS AAMW Tollways Pvt Ltd,in which it had 26 per cent stake. However,the MSRDC disqualified the company counting its experience only to the extent of its shareholding in the JV.

In its order dated October 29,the Bombay High Court said,“This is a possible interpretation and cannot be said to be arbitrary or perverse. We do not find that the process of shortlisting of the applicants is plagued by mala fides warranting interference in its writ jurisdiction by the court,” the order said.

Advertising

R Kohli,counsel for SMS Infrastructure,said,“We will not appeal to the Supreme Court. Generally,the view of the court is to not interfere in tender matters and leave such decisions up to the administration.”

manasi.phadke@expressindia.com