A two-judge Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice AS Bopanna has issued directions to the State of Manipur and the concerned Department, including Respondent No. 2 to invite fresh tenders for the supply/transportation of rice and other micronutrients under a Development Scheme in the State.

The Court held, "It is very unfortunate that the contract for supply/transportation of rice and other micronutrients under the Development Scheme has been continued by way of an interim arrangement only and without issuing any fresh tenders and the contract has been continued at the old rates of 2017-18, which must have caused tremendous/huge loss to the State and the Public Exchequer."

Senior Advocate Mr. Siddhartha Dave appeared for the Appellant, while Advocate Mr. Pukhrambam Ramesh Kumar appeared for the Respondents during the proceedings before the Supreme Court.

The Division Bench of the Manipur High Court had directed the Respondents to take immediate steps and issue fresh tenders for transportation of rice and micronutrients under the WBNP within a time frame. Also, the Court directed to complete the entire tender process within 20 days from the date of fresh NITs.

The Appellant contended before the Court that the State Government was not inviting fresh tenders for transporting Rice and other micronutrients under the Wheat Based Nutrition Programme (WBNP) from the Food Corporation of India's depots in the State of Manipur to the offices of Child Development Project Officers.

It was further argued that the State continued without inviting fresh tenders on the basis of Notice Inviting Tender (NIT) of 2017, that has caused huge loss to the State and Public Exchequer.

Also, it was pleaded before the Court that the contract for transporting rice and other micronutrients under the WBNP was solely on the basis of interim arrangement and without any fresh tenders and without entering into any permanent contracts.

While the Respondents prayed for the grant of reasonable time for completing the tender process. Also, it was contended that the High Court's order could not be implemented because of the administrative difficulties. The State also tendered an unconditional apology before the Court.

The Apex Court rejected the Respondents' contentions holding that their explanation was vague and could not be accepted.

"There is a total lethargic and negligence on the part of the State and its departments in not issuing the fresh tender process and in not issuing fresh NIT after 2018," observed the Bench.

The Court gave the following directions to the Respondents for inviting fresh tenders under the WBNP –

i) Issue fresh Notice Inviting Tenders for appointment of transport contractor within a period of 10 days and NIT to be conducted in fair and transparent manner through e-Tender;

ii) Invitation of the fresh NIT shall be nation-wide and it is the duty of the State/concerned Department to see that there is no cartel by the contractors and that the maximum price is received and there is no loss to the Public Exchequer and the State;

iii) Entire tender process to be completed within a period of 6 weeks from the date of issuance of the e-Tender;

iv) Directions of the High Court to continue issued under WBNP related to transportation of goods to continue till 31.12.2021 for the convenience of the beneficiaries;

v) The State of Manipur to submit compliance report before the Supreme Court; and

vi) Any lapse on the part of the State and/or its departments and non-compliance of the order would be viewed seriously by the Court.

In the light of these observations, the Court disposed of the appeal.

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