The present petition has been filed under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution of India, being aggrieved by the order dated 23.05.2020 (Annexure-P/17) passed by the respondent No.3 whereby, the respondents have cancelled the tender allotted to the petitioner for Hoshangabad District on the ground that the petitioner has failed to deposit the remaining amount and order has been passed to confiscate the earnest money deposit of the petitioner of an amount of Rs.25 Crores.
2. In this background, the petitioner has prayed for the following reliefs :-
"1. To issue the appropriate writs, orders, directions in the nature of Certiorari, thereby quashing the order dated 23.05.2020, whereby, the Tender allotted to the petitioner for Hoshangabad District is cancelled and the EMD is forfeited.
2. To issue the appropriate writs, orders, directions in the nature of mandamus, commanding thereby the respondents to allow the petitioner to furnish BG for the remaining amount of Rs.83.5 Crores and substitute with cash deposit before start of mining activities/agreement.
3. To issue the appropriate writs, orders, directions in the nature of mandamus, commanding thereby the respondents to issue provisional letter of intent in favour of the petitioner so as to proceed with the Development activities like permission to obtain all statutory approval/clearance/consent, till execution of agreement.
4. Cost of the case may also be awarded to the petitioner."
3. On notice, the respondents have filed the reply and submitted that there is no illegality in the order of cancellation of the tender allotted to the petitioner as the petitioner has failed to deposit 50% of the annual bid value as per the terms and conditions of the tenders. It is further submitted that there is no merit in the contentions of the petitioner that the petitioner could not deposit the said amount as a result of force majeure.
4. The relevant dates and facts are that on 07.10.2019, the respondent No.2 invited tenders for quarring/mining of sand in 43 Districts of Madhya Pradesh. On 26.10.2019, the corrigendum granting 15 days time in place of 3 days to deposit 50% of annual bid value was issued. The petitioner submitted its bids on 26.11.2019. The bids were opened on 08.12.2019. The petitioner requested for additional time to deposit 50% of the annual bid value on 29.1.2020. The respondents granted 10 days time for payment on 31.1.2020. The respondents have further sent an e-mail asking the petitioner to deposit 50% of the annual bid value by 08.2.2020. The petitioner did not deposit the bid value within the aforesaid period and on 24.2.2020 again requested for additional time and requested that the bank guarantee be accepted in lieu of the deposit but till this date, the petitioner has not deposited 50% of the annual bid amount.
5. Thus, from the aforesaid relevant dates, it is clear that the petitioner submitted its bid for sand mining blocks in Hoshangabad, Bhind and Sehore Districts on 26.11.2019. The bids were opened on 08.12.2019 and the petitioner was found to be the highest bidder for the aforesaid districts and he was required to pay the earnest money and 50% of the annual bid amount. As per the tender conditions and rules, the petitioner was required to pay the said amount within a period of three days but as per the corrigendum issued on 26.10.2019, the time period was enhanced to 15 days. The petitioner, further by letter dated 29.1.2020, requested for extension of 10 days time which is the maximum period permissible under the Madhya Pradesh Sand (Mining, Transportation, Storage and Trading) Rules, 2019 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Rules, 2019'). The respondents, by letter dated 31.1.2020, granted the petitioner ten days extension time to deposit the 50% of the balance amount.
6. The petitioner deposited the balance of the required bid for Bhind District on 01.2.2020 and accordingly, the letter of intent for the same was issued on 01.2.2020. Similarly, the petitioner deposited the balance of the required bid for Sehore District and letter of intent was issued by the respondents on 10.2.2020 and subsequently, agreements for both the districts were executed between the parties. However, in respect of Hoshangabad District, the petitioner has failed to deposit the annual bid amount.7. The nationwide lockdown as a result of COVID-19 pandemic was brought into force w.e.f. 24.3.2020 whereas, the petitioner was required to make the payment by 08.2.2020.
8. Thus, it is clear that the petitioner never had the intention to comply with the tender conditions and, therefore, the respondents have rightly cancelled the bid and forfeited the earnest money deposited.
9. From th
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e aforesaid, it is clear that the entire sequence of events are prior to the onset of COVID-19 pandemic and, therefore, the contentions of the learned counsel for the petitioner regarding force majeure would not be applicable to him. 10. In view of the aforesaid, we do not find any illegality or arbitrariness in the action of the respondents in cancellation of the tender of the petitioner and forfeiting the earnest money of the petitioner. 11. Accordingly, the writ petition is dismissed. No order as to costs.