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Next Gen Agro vs. Nab Foundation Fully Owned Subsidiaryof NABARD - (High Court of Bombay) (13 May 2024)

Courts cannot interfere with the conditions of tender, tendering Authority is the best Judge to specify a particular eligibility criteria in the tender document



By present petition, the Petitioner challenges rejection of its technical bid in the tender process initiated by Respondent No.1 for supply, installation of PUSA-STFR Meter Kit and onsite training for setting up 1000 mini soil testing labs in 1000 identified schools.

Petitioner is aggrieved by action of Respondent No. 1 declaring it ineligible in the tender process qua the condition of existence for at least three years as on 31 December 2023. It contends that the cut off date for deciding the eligibility criteria of firm's existence ought to have been considered as 31 March 2024, as turnover of the bidders for FY 2023-2024 is permitted to be considered. It contends that if criteria of firm's existence for 3 years as on 31 March 2024 is applied, Petitioner qualifies all tender conditions. Petitioner is also aggrieved by the scoring pattern introduced by Respondent No.1 for evaluation of bidders.

It is the contention of Respondent No.1 that what is done by the Corrigendum is only relaxation of number of years from 5 to 3, without altering the cut-off date of 31 December 2023. This is the interpretation placed on tender condition by the tendering authority. By now, it is well settled law that Courts cannot interfere with the conditions of tender and that the Tendering Authority is the best Judge to specify a particular eligibility criteria in the tender document. It is also equally well settled law that in the event of any ambiguity in the tender conditions, the interpretation placed by the Tendering Authority shall prevail. In Afcons Infrastructure Limited v. Nagpur Metro Rail Corporation Limited & Anr., the Apex Court held that the owner or the employer of a project, having authored the tender documents, is the best person to understand and appreciate its requirements and interpret its documents.

Corrigendum merely reduced the period of existence of Firms from 5 years to 3 years, without effecting any change in the cut-off date. The Petitioner could not prove its existence for three years either as on 31 December 2023 or even on 1 April 2024. The decision of the Tendering Authority in disqualifying the Petitioner's bid therefore does not suffer from any serious infirmity.

Petitioner's financial bid, as declared in the Petition is for Rs. 69,000 per unit whereas the lowest bid of Respondent No.3 is of Rs. 59,800 per unit. There is substantial difference between the rates quoted by Petitioner and Respondent No.3. Respondent No.3 has already been awarded Work Order on 30 April 2024. Therefore, even on this ground, no interference can be made in the impugned decision of the Respondent No.1.Petition dismissed.


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