Tender conditions for Dharavi slum redevelopment were revised in public interest, not to favour Adani: Maharashtra to Bombay High Court
The State said that the conditions of the new tender were fixed in September 2022 after careful discussion with experts and based on rationale and reasonable grounds.
The conditions prescribed in tender for redevelopment of the Dharavi slums in Mumbai were revised in view of the change in financial and material circumstances in the country from 2019 to 2022 and was done keeping in mind larger public interest, the Maharashtra government told Bombay High Court
The housing department of the State government was responding to a plea Seclink Technologies Corporation (STC), challenging the conditions of revised tender was eventually won by the Adani Group.
In the petition filed through Ganesh & Co., Seclink claimed to have been a successful bidder in January 2019 against Adani, however, no tender was awarded to Seclink.
STC, therefore, submitted that the clauses of the new tender were added only to oust them as a bidder and to ensure Adani won the bid.
The State refuted this contention, stating that the conditions of the new tender were fixed in September 2022 after careful discussion with experts and based on rationale and reasonable grounds.
“The conditions of the tender (under challenge) are based on the discussion amongst experts and taking into account the changed circumstances and is based on a rationale reasonable basis. There is no question of excluding anyone’s participation in the fresh tender,” the affidavit emphasized.
The State government pointed out that the Seclink had not challenged the new tender process.
The State submitted that there had been no question of “excluding any participation of bids” and Seclink could have submitted a fresh bid after complying with the new terms and conditions.
It further justified that the new tender and old tender were different because of the changed circumstances.
“This is because of the several factors such as financial and economic state of affairs in January, 2019 and in 2022 are materially different. The present economic state of affairs is materially affected by the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, Russia-Ukraine war, uncertainty over Rupee-USD rate, interest rate volatility and overall high-risk perception of common investor. There is also a material change in the availability of upfront vacant land to begin the project immediately” the affidavit pointed out.
The affidavit by the housing department claimed that Seclink had no vested right to get an award in the tender process.
“Any person who submits a bid can only legitimately expect that his bid is considered in a non- arbitrary and transparent manner. No person has a right to do business with the government as a matter of right. Seclink cannot force the tendering authority to invite tenders in a way that it would be able to participate,” the affidavit said.
It was also contended the judiciary could scrutinise matters relating to tenders, only if the tendering process was not transparent and was arbitrary.
The decision of the tendering authority could not be challenged, the affidavit underscored.
“In the instant case, the tendering process had been fair, transparent and in the larger public interest and the tender conditions were formulated by the experts taking into consideration the overall public interest and the nature of the project,” the housing department said.
When the matter was heard on Friday, advocate Suraj Iyer, appearing for the company, submitted that in October 2020, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by Uddhav Thackerey cancelled the tender assuring that new tenders will be floated.
The company filed a writ petition in 2019 challenging the cancellation of its bid.
Iyer claimed that it suffered a financial loss of ₹8,424 crores due to the cancellation of the earlier tender.
In 2022, after a new tender was floated, Adani emerged as a successful bidder.
Seclink was then permitted to amend the petition to challenge the new tender conditions.Senior Advocate Dr Milind Sathe and advocate Bhushan Deshmukh for Dharavi Redevelopment Project under SRA, a body working under the housing department clarified that the 2022 tender was issued after receiving 45 acres of land for the project.
It was after this addition by the Eknath Shinde led government that Adani qualified for bid, and was awarded the tender.
The Court eventually adjourned the matter for hearing next on March 14.