Madras HC restrains Tangedco from opening bids for ₹1,330 crore coal import tender

However, permits it to issue a corrigendum and extend last date for submission of bids by 15 more days

The Madras High Court on Tuesday restrained the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) from opening the techno commercial and price bids received for a ₹1,330 crore worth tender for supply of 20 lakh tonnes of imported steam coal of any origin to be delivered at the Kamarajar port at Ennore near here between May 2021 and May 2022.

Justice B. Pugalendhi directed Tangedco to defer the bid opening date, originally scheduled for Tuesday, until he passes necessary orders on a writ petition that had challenged the tender notification issued on February 8 calling for bids within 15 days from domestic bidders on payment of ₹13 crore, or $1,756,757 by foreign bidders, towards Earnest Money Deposit.

The judge also gave the liberty to Tangedco to issue a corrigendum and extend the last date for submission of bids by 15 more days, if it was advised to do so. The interim orders were passed on a writ petition filed by a private firm which claimed that it was a statutory requirement to grant a minimum of 30 days of time to submit the bids for such a high value tender.

Senior counsel Satish Parasaran, representing the petitioner company, said Rule 20 of the Tamil Nadu Transparency in Tender Rules requires a minimum of 30 days’ time to be given for submission of bids for tenders valued over ₹2 crore. However, the rule had not been followed in letter and spirit by Tangedco despite calling for a ₹1,330 crore tender, he said.

In its affidavit, the petitioner company alleged that Tangedco was showing undue haste in finalising the tenders, without even calling for a pre-bid meeting, “probably due to the impending announcement of model code of conduct for the upcoming State elections.” It also wondered the necessity for importing coal in May when wind energy production would be at its peak.

Claiming that thermal power stations would be shut down during the month of May, the petitioner said: “That being the case, there is no reason for the present tender to be called with such undue haste by flouting all tender norms.” It also claimed that the tender conditions were so that they would exclude the participation of Indian firms and promote only foreign bidders.

On the other hand, Advocate General Vijay Narayan questioned the maintainability of the writ petition and contended that a company which was not even qualified to participate in the bidding process could not be allowed to question the tender. He said the petitioner company had not provided any details regarding its eligibility in the affidavit filed in support of the writ petition.

He pointed out that only companies with a turnover of ₹335 crore in any one of the financial years between 2017-18 and 2019-20 and those that had supplied five lakh tonnes of imported steam coal to public sector undertakings or private power utilities in any of those three years were eligible to submit their bids for the ₹1,330 crore tender.

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