The High Court of Himachal Pradesh has come down heavily on the state government for its “sordid, despotic and nepotistic” functioning in a case related to the allotment of distribution work of cooking gas cylinders to two contractors.
The court, while pronouncing its judgement on a petition challenging the allotment of the work, observed that “systematic fraud” has been committed by “those who are at the helm of affairs” of HP State Civil Supplies Corporation, a state-owned company.
The case was related to the distribution of cooking gas cylinders in Rohru and Chirgaon areas of Shimla district. The work was earlier being done by a contractor named Chanan Singh who quit in March last year. The Corporation then allotted the work to petitioners Darshan Singh and another person, but later reallotted it to two other contractors who quoted two rupees less than the existing rate, according to the petitioners.
However, no notice, proclamation or advertisement was issued by the Corporation while allotting the work, the court said in its judgement. In fact, even the petitioners were earlier allotted the work in a similar fashion.
The court said that the respondents could not have acted arbitrarily while dealing with public property, but were obliged to enter into the contract as per some standard norms and in a fair and transparent way.
The respondents included the managing director of the Corporation and the principal secretary (food, civil supplies and consumer affairs) to the Himachal government.
“The office bearers of the Corporation cannot act as despots or monarchs, and are obliged to act in accordance with the principles of democracy, equity, equality and solidarity,” said the court.
It further said, “Having regard to the entire facts and circumstances, the irresistible conclusion is that fraud has reached its crescendo. Deeds as foul as these are inconceivable, much less could be permitted to be perpetrated.”
While allowing the petition, the court directed the Corporation to call for widely-publicised tenders for the distribution of cylinders, and complete the process within six weeks. Till then, the contractors already allotted the work may continue the distribution, it said.
“The concept of reasonableness and non-arbitrariness pervades the entire constitutional spectrum and is a golden thread which runs through the whole fabric of the Constitution,” the court remarked.
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