On 19th August 2020, a Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Mr. Manoj K. Tiwari heard the case of Chandra Mohan Phutela v. State of Uttarakhand and Others via video conferencing.
Facts of the case
In this case, the petitioner is a Transporter who is engaged in the business of transportation of food-grains and for this purpose, he is registered with the Regional Food Controller, Kumaon Region, Haldwani. He was awarded a contract for transporting food-grains during the financial year 2019-20 and an extension was granted to him in view of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
A tender notice as well as a corrigendum which was issued by the respondent was challenged by the petitioner in this case, on the sole ground that no schedule rate had been fixed for the work of handling and transportation of food-grains. The petitioner has relied upon the letter issued by the respondent to the Commissioner Food and Civil Supplies, Uttarakhand.
The petitioner has thus sought the following reliefs:
- Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari to quash the impugned tender notice as well as the corrigendum issued by the respondent.
- Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus directing the respondent to fix the Schedule-Rates for Handling and Transportation of Goods as requested by the Regional Food Controller and only then initiate the fresh tender process by disclosing the Schedule Rate in the tender document.
Learned Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted that fixation of rate schedule is mandatory and since no rate schedule was fixed before issuing the tender notice, therefore, the entire tender process was vitiated on this ground alone.
A Counter Affidavit was filed by the respondent which contained a statement that the Ministry of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India had directed the State Government to fix the schedule of rates for the transportation and handling of food-grains.
The Court based on its observations said that the letter was issued for a different purpose altogether, namely, to consider the request of existing transporters for extension of the contract for the current financial year at 2% lesser rates than the rates for the previous year (2019-20). Although, in the opening sentence of the said letter it is mentioned that due to non-fixation of schedule rates for the work of transportation and handling of food-grains, some problems are being faced, however, the statement alone is not sufficient to set-aside the tender notice and the corrigendum issued by the respondent.
The Court also inferred that it is the Central Government, which pays the handling and transportation charges in respect of food-grains distributed through Public Distribution System, therefore, the Central Government had directed the State Government to fix the schedule of rates for guidance of the concerned authorities responsible for handling and transportation of the food-grains within the State. However, the direction issued by the Central Government is not law, therefore, violation, if any, of such direction will not render the tender process invalid, as contended by learned Senior Counsel for the petitioner.
The Court further observed that the relevant provisions of Uttarakhand Procurement Rules, 2017 dealing with procurement of services by the Government/Government Agencies were also absolutely silent and they did not provide that the fixation of schedule rate would be a necessary condition in every notice inviting tender.
The Court did not find any valid reason for interfering with the tender notice and the corrigendum issued by the respondent. Similarly, no direction could be issued to fix the schedule rate for handling and transportation of the goods, as prayed in the writ petition. Thus, the Court dismissed the petition.
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