The High Court Thursday directed the authorities of Jal Shakti department to explain as to why there was a seven-year delay in executing a scheme meant for providing water supply to each household of Kokernag in Anantnag district.
Hearing an appeal by the government, a bench of Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey directed the Secretary, the Chief Engineer; the Superintending Engineer and the Assistant Executive Engineer of Jal Shakti department to file personal affidavits explaining the reasons for the delay in execution of the scheme.
The court also noticed with “seriousness” the stay granted by a sub-ordinate court to the re-tendering of the scheme which carried out by the concerned authorities.
The government’s plea before the court was that Executive Engineer, Jal Shakti, division Bijbehara had invited tenders for execution of laying and fitting of supply pipes on February 14, 2014 and the works by the department were allotted to contractors being the successful bidders and the allotment was issued in their favour.
The department contended that the contractor did not execute the work as per the terms and conditions of the contract and agreement.
Consequently, the department said, it cancelled the contract and initiated fresh process of allotment of the contract. The department further contends that the Executive Engineer on Number 16, 2019 invited e-tenders for the same work.
The government said that while the contractor challenged the e-tenders before the court of Principal District and Sessions Judge Anantnag in a civil suit, the court, it said, stayed the process of work on February 6, 2020 “without providing opportunity of filing objections and engaging the counsel by the department”.
Noticing the benefit of scheme for the supply of water to each household of Kokernag, the court said it considers it proper to pass appropriate orders.
The court sought personal affidavit of the concerned authorities of the department indicating as to why the scheme, which was sanctioned in the year 2013, for supply of water to the huge population of Kokernag, got delayed for about seven long years.
“The appellants owe explanation, as not only public exchequer but the public interest is involved. The appellants while filing such affidavit shall indicate the steps taken by them from time to time for ensuring the completion of scheme for supply of quality water to the area covered under the scheme,” the court said.
Viewing seriously the approach adopted by the subordinate court in staying the e-tender notice, the court said the same was done without realising the effect of stalling the implementation of the water supply scheme meant for huge populated area of Kokernag.
The court said, prima facie it appeared that the only relief available to the contractor may be to claim the relief for breach of the contract, which, it held, in essence does not give them any right to seek performance of contract, as per the settled position of law.
The court also said that the appeal filed by the government had been filed with a delay of nearly 200 days and needed a plausible explanation.
Deputy Advocate General IrfanAndleeb, on behalf of the government, submitted that this matter was brought into his notice only 10 days ago and he had made endeavour and effort to challenge the order before the court. The court appreciated him for this.
Keeping in view the merit in the appeal, the court condoned the delay and issued notice to the contractor to file reply within two weeks.
Meanwhile, the court stayed the order dated February 6, 2020 passed by the Principal District and Sessions Judge Anantnag in the civil suit and directed the department to ensure completion of the tender process by December 11 and apprise the court about the result.