HC upholds termination of contract for Kohima-Jessami road Package V

Moring Express News 
Dimapur | June 24 

The Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench has upheld the decision of the NHIDCL to terminate the contract agreement for Package V of the construction of a 2-lane road with a hard shoulder on the Kohima-Jessami road on National Highway-29 (old NH 150). 
Package V covers the stretch from ‘existing km 98.380 (near Chizami village) to km 120.367 (Nagaland/Manipur Border)’ and measures approximately 21.5 kilometre.

The NHIDCL (National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation) had signed the contract for the project with Mumbai-registered Stroyproekt-OIA JV (Joint Venture) on an Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) Agreement on May 29, 2020, under the Bharatmala Pariyojna. The sanctioned cost of Package V, as per the NHIDCL’s website is Rs 330.8 crore.

According to the Court’s records, the NHIDCL issued the termination letter on March 15, 2023, followed by a Notice Inviting Bid on March 27.

Subsequently, in April, the Contractor approached the Kohima Bench of the High Court challenging the termination and the notice for a new tender.

Among other issues, the Contractor argued that the NHIDCL should not have issued the termination letter considering their submission on December 5, 2022, requesting an extension of time (EOT), as well as a letter dated December 14, 2022, from the Authority Engineer recommending an EOT until July 4, 2023, for the project’s completion.

However, in the judgment order passed on June 23, Justice Ajit Borthakur observed that although the NHIDCL published the Request for Proposal (RFP) on March 27 for the remaining works without explicitly accepting or rejecting the petitioner’s request for EOT-III or the Authority Engineer’s recommendation, it cannot be claimed that the termination order was passed “arbitrarily and illegally.”

“From time to time, the hurdles faced by the petitioner in executing the work as per their assured schedules were duly considered by the respondent authority and granted accordingly,” the Judge noted, referring own admission by the Contractor that works for some milestones failed “due to poor planning and poor management, and overall work progress is not satisfactory.”

Furthermore, the Judge emphasised that the decision to terminate the contract was made based on a proper assessment of work progress and an understanding of the circumstances that led to the delay, which ultimately impacted public interest.

Consequently, Justice Borthakur concluded that awarding the contract for constructing a public road (NH) in a state like Nagaland was in the public interest, and the termination of the petitioner’s contract was also in the public interest. 

Accordingly, the Court deemed it unnecessary to interfere or review the matter and dismissed the writ petition. 

In addition, the interim Court order issued on April 4, directing that bids submitted by the bidder in response to the Notice Inviting Bid dated February 27, 2023, should not be opened without the Court’s permission, was also vacated.

It must be noted here that the “Construction of 2-lane with hard shoulder of Kohima-Jessami Road” is being undertaken under 5 packages-Km 7.880 (near Chedama Junction) to existing km 30.474 (Near Chakahabama)-Package I; Km 30.474 (Near Kidwema road Chakahabama) to existing Km 53.220 (Near Kikruma village)-Package-II; Km 53.220 (Near Kikruma village) to existing Km 76.320 (Near Mesulumi village)-Package III; km76.320 (near Mesulumi village) to existing Km 98.380 (near Chizami village)-(Package IV) and Package V. 

As per the status given by the NHIDCL on May 31, while the likely date of completion for Package I is June 30 and it is December 30 for Package III. Package IV is designated as “Substantially “completed on 19-03-2023.” However, the statuses for Package II and V are given as “To be Re-awarded.” 

In April this year, hundreds of local contractors had also protested at the site contractor office against the termination of the work.