The Supreme Court Monday upheld a Bombay High Court order which quashed a March 2020 communication issued by a joint venture firm cancelling an award granted to GMR Airports for upgradation and operation of the Nagpur's Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport.
A bench of Justices Vineet Saran and J K Maheshwari said the judgment passed by the High Court is based on the sound reasonings and true analysis of facts, which do not warrant interference.
"We are of the considered opinion that the findings recorded by the High Court allowing the writ petition are in accordance with law. Those findings do not suffer from any illegality, warranting interference by this court in exercise of the power under Article 136 of the Constitution of India. All these appeals are hereby dismissed," the bench said.
The top court said that in government contracts, if granted by the government bodies, it is expected to uphold fairness, equality and rule of law while dealing with contractual matters.
"Right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution abhors arbitrariness. The transparent bidding process is favoured by the court to ensure that constitutional requirements are satisfied.
"It is said that the constitutional guarantee as provided under Article 14 of the Constitution of India demands the State to act in a fair and reasonable manner unless public interest demands otherwise," the bench said.
The apex court said it is expedient that the degree of compromise of any private legitimate interest must correspond proportionately to the public interest.
"It is specified that using a ground of public interest or loss to the treasury cannot undo the work already undertaken by the authority," it said.
The top court's judgement came on an appeal filed by MIHAN India Ltd challenging the August 18, 2021 order of the Bombay High Court.
The high court had said the communication, issued to GMR Airports Ltd by MIHAN India Ltd, a joint venture between Maharashtra Airport Development Company and the Airports Authority of India, deserved to be quashed and set aside.
"We find that the impugned communication is arbitrary, unfair and unreasonable and, therefore, it deserves to be quashed and set aside," the high court had said.
The HC order came on a petition filed by GMR Airports challenging the action of MIHAN in annulling the bidding process for upgradation, modernisation, operation and management of the Nagpur international airport despite the process having come to an end and the petitioner (GMR) already having been awarded the project by way of a Letter of Award on March 7, 2019.
According to the plea, MIHAN was planning to issue fresh tenders for the project.
MIHAN had, however, claimed the communication sent to the petitioner on March 7, 2019, was only a bid acceptance letter and not a letter of award.
The company said the communication clearly stated that the acceptance of the bid was conditional and required approval from the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Copyright©2023 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today