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Supreme Court overrules HC order on Dimapur-Kohima 4-lane project contract

Supreme Court

DIMAPUR, MAY 21: The Supreme Court has termed as unsustainable in law the order issued by Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court directing National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) to, among others, award contract for Phase-III of Dimapur-Kohima 4-lane project to the joint venture bid of Vilelie Khamo & Sons and M Chabou & Co.
“We are of the view that the impugned judgment/order passed by the High Court is unsustainable in law. The Court, while exercising jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India in a public interest litigation, should not have directed that the work on the highway, including the work of maintenance and repairs, must be undertaken by a particular contractor”, stated a judgment delivered recently by a Bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta.
As previously reported in Nagaland Page, the apex Court had in May last year stayed the operation of the HC order issued on March 31 last year after the NHIDCL decided to challenge it.
In the order, the Bench noted that despite according opportunity, the respondents did not file a counter affidavit or reply.

Related Story: Supreme Court stays HC’s directive on award of contract for Dimapur-Kohima 4-lane project

 “By an order dated May 1, 2023, we had stayed the operation of the impugned judgment dated March 31, 2023. It was also directed that the appellant ~ National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited ~ will be entitled to open the Notice Inviting Tender (NIT), and if respondent No. 1 ~ M/s Chabou and Co. ~ apply, their bid would be considered as per the eligibility requirements and in accordance with law.
“It is stated on behalf of the appellant NHIDCL that the tenders were opened and have been awarded to a third party. The new contractor has commenced work on the highway, which is progressing smoothly, and as per the schedule. It is stated that according to the terms of the tender and the agreement executed, the road work is to be completed on or before the end of September 2025.
We hope and trust that the appellant NHIDCL will ensure that the said deadline for completion is met and adhered”, the order read.
The SC Bench held that while the HC can and was right in expressing concern for the delay in completion and execution of works, the Court, nevertheless, “could not have issued directions on who should be assigned the task of execution”.
“The directions are well beyond the power of judicial review as they impinge upon the role, the duty and the task assigned to the appellant NHIDCL. The Courts can and do issue directions in public interest but would hesitate in donning or taking over the role of the appellant NHIDCL in deciding who should execute the work”, the order stated.
The Bench, therefore, directed the NHIDCL to file an affidavit before the High Court, nominating a nodal officer who will oversee the execution of the work.
“The nodal officer will ensure and be responsible for completion of the work within time and in accordance with the agreement. In case there is any delay in construction beyond September 2025, the appellant NHIDCL will move an application before the High Court for extension of time. The application will state and give reasons for the delay. The High Court may thereupon pass appropriate order/directions”, the order read.
(Page News Service)