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HC stays road works awarded to tainted contractors

In response to a PIL challenging road and bridge contracts awarded to tainted contractors by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, the Bombay High Court stayed till June 9 the construction works in four areas of the city.

The stay was granted by a vacation bench of Justices Bhushan Gavai and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi on a petition filed by Jaishree Khadilkar, editor of “Navakal” newspaper.

The construction of roads in Yari Road, Hancock Bridge, Drive-in theatre near Mithi River and ROB (road overbridge) near Vikhroli railway station were today stayed by the Court.

The Judges were informed by MCGM that certain irregularities were found in the previous works of these contractors last year and action had been initiated. However, inadvertently, fresh contracts were awarded to the same contractors.

Hitting out at MCGM officials for awarding contracts to tainted contractors, the judges observed “public authority holds power in public trust and they should not use it as per their whims and fancies.

“It is impossible to believe that Standing Committee of MCGM, while passing resolution awarding contracts to tainted contractors, was not aware about orders passed by Municipal Commissioner (against the contractors),” the bench observed.

“A public authority cannot act detrimental to the interest of people and MCGM cannot award contract to such contractors who are found guilty of committing irregularities,” the bench said.

The Judges said that 21 days after the Municipal Commissioner had passed orders (against the contractors), the process to issue show cause notices to the contractors started. “This only shows how inefficient the officers are,” the bench observed.

MCGM said in an affidavit that all the four works (which were stayed by the HC) were urgent and important and delay would cause hardship and inconvenience to the public at large.

The quality of the work in the present contracts would be monitored strictly, it assured the court.

From the date of the show cause notices to these contractors, the Corporation had not issued any further work to them and no new works would be assigned to them till the final order is passed on the show cause notices, it said.

But the High Court stayed the four works awarded to these contractors saying it was not in public interest to award them the contracts and adjourned the hearing beyond the summer vacation when a regular bench would hear the matter.

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