At, High Court of Kerala
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE N. NAGARESH
For the Petitioner: P.S. Jishy, K. Vinaya, Advocates. For the Respondents: R1-R2, R4, S.P. Aravindakshan Pillay, R3, P.R. Jayasankar, R5, K.M. Ameer, M.J. Jesna, M. Rahmathullah, Aiswarya Ravikumar, Advocates.
1. The petitioner who claims to be the lowest bidder in tender proceedings to run a canteen in the 1 st respondent-University is before this Court seeking to direct the respondents 1 and 2 to award the contract based on Ext.P2 notification to the petitioner on the basis of Ext.P3 quotation.2. The petitioner has been running the canteen in the 1st respondent-University since the year 2016. The respondents invited fresh tender notifications as per Ext.P2 dated 21.10.2019. According to the petitioner, the petitioner was the lowest tenderer. The 3 rd respondent was however selected and awarded the contract. The petitioner would submit that, this is highly illegal and arbitrary. The University being a Statutory Authority should have gone by merits and should have awarded the tender to the lowest tenderer.3. The learned counsel for the petitioner contended that the petitioner was the lowest tenderer satisfying all conditions stipulated in the notification and has been running the canteen successfully from the year 2016 without any complaints from any quarters. The petitioner has invested huge amounts to run the canteen. Even during the covid lock-down period, petitioner has been maintaining the staff and canteen, which has caused considerable financial burden on the petitioner.4. The action of the respondents 1 and 2 in awarding the contract to the 3rd respondent, without holding any discussion with the petitioner or any other tenderers is highly arbitrary. The action is motivated and is at the behest of certain persons who wanted to oust the petitioner.5. The respondents 1 and 4 filed a counter affidavit in the matter and resisted the writ petition. The respondents 1 and 4 stated that on 20.07.2019, the Syndicate of the University resolved to renew the agreement with the petitioner for 6 months and also resolved to re-tender the selection of contractor for running the canteen, as per Ext.R1(b). Four tenderers participated. The petitioner was the lowest tender. But the University had difficulty in accepting the tender of the petitioner even though the petitioner quoted the lowest rate for food items. The canteen committee expressed objection in awarding the contract to the petitioner as there were complaints about the functioning and maintenance of the canteen by the petitioner. The students representatives also invited attention to the problems faced by the students, using the canteen.6. As is evident from Ext.R1(c) the canteen committee came to the conclusion that a sub committee should be constituted to visit the canteen run by the tenderers for conducting a study. Accordingly the sub committee submitted a report. The canteen committee at its meeting held on 22.07.2020 considered the report of the sub committee. The canteen committee found that the rates for food items offered by the 3 rd respondent were reasonable. Accordingly it was decided to award the contract to the 3rd respondent.7. The learned Standing Counsel would further submit that the Syndicate meeting held on 07.05.2020 considered the matter and gave approval to the proposal. Consequently Ext.R1(e) agreement was entered into with the 3rd respondent.8. The learned Standing Counsel for the respondents 1 and 4 further submitted that the petitioner was a defaulter in payment of dues to the University. Letters were sent to the petitioner directing to pay an amount of Rs.1,08,077/- as water and electricity charges due from December 2019. However the amount was not paid. The petitioner was directed to vacate the canteen and return key on 31.05.2020. That was also not done. The Standing Counsel further pointed out that as per the records maintained by the University a sum of Rs.1,98,015/- is due to the University from the petitioner as on 23.11.2015. It was in these circumstances that the University decided to dispense with the service of the petitioner and award the contract to the 3rd respondent.9. The additional respondents 5 to 7 pointed out that the price quoted by the 3rd respondent is exorbitant and most of the students in the University would not be able to have their food due to the exorbitant price quoted by the 3rd respondent. This is a matter this Court should considered while deciding the issue.10. Heard the learned counsel for the petitioner, the learned Standing Counsel for the respondents 1 and 4, the learned counsel for the 3rd respondent and the learned counsel appearing for respondents 5 to 7.11. It is a settled proposition of law that power of judicial review in the matter of award of contract should be exercised by this Court taking note of the special features of the contract. In the present case, the award of contract is in respect of a canteen in an educational institution. The respondents 1 and 4 received complaints about the running of the canteen by the petitioner.12. The petitioner was a defaulter to the University also. The petitioner has been functioning the canteen from the year 2016. The University found that the service provided by the petitioner are unsatisfactory. In such circumstances even though the pet
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itioner is the lowest tenderer, the University can opt alternative contractors for award of tender in view of the complaints raised against the petitioner. The judgments of the Honourable Apex Court in Jagdish Mandal v. State of Orissa [2007 14 SCC 517] and Maa Binda Express Carrier and Anr v. Northeast Frontier Railway [2014 3SCC 760] would support the contentions of the respondents 1 and 4.In view of the above, this Court finds no ground to interfere with the decision taken by the respondents 1 and 4. The writ petition fails and it is accordingly dismissed.