‘Opportunistic litigation’ undermines tender process, must be discouraged: Delhi HC

Opportunistic litigation” undermines fairness and credibility of a tender process as it creates unpredictability and it must be strongly discouraged to ensure integrity of the tendering system of procurement, the Delhi High Court has said.

The court made the observation while dismissing with costs of Rs 50,000 a petition by a company challenging a tender issued by the Northern Railways to operate additional trains on a certain route.

The petitioner, who had an agreement with the railways to lease a parcel cargo express train on the Alwar-New Guwahati route, argued that the tender notice proposed leasing of similar parcel cargo express trains on a “nearly identical” route, which would have potential adverse impact on its business.

The court said the costs will be deposited towards the Delhi Police Welfare Fund, adding that improvisation of railway operations should not be hindered by apprehensions of adverse impacts on the petitioner’s business.

It opined that the petition did “not reveal any legal or constitutional grounds” and the petitioner’s active engagement in the process and the subsequent success in securing the bid prevents them from now seeking quashing of the very same tender after failing to complete the necessary formalities.

“Engaging in opportunistic litigation undermines the fairness and credibility of the tendering process, creating an environment of unpredictability. Such practices must be strongly discouraged to ensure integrity of the tendering system of procurement,” said a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula in an order passed on August 1.

“The petition is dismissed with costs of Rs. 50,000/-, which the petitioner shall deposit with the Delhi Police Welfare Fund within three weeks from today,” the court ordered.

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The court also rejected the petitioner’s contention that the tender was in violation of their right to do business under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and said the right was subject to reasonable restrictions in the interest of public welfare and economic balance.

“The Northern Railways’ decision to introduce new trains is a legitimate and essential step, aimed at enhancing railway services and meeting the evolving needs of the public. Such measures are essential for efficient functioning of the railway system and cannot be considered as arbitrary or unconstitutional restrictions on petitioner’s right to conduct business of their choice,” the court stated.

“Improvisation of railway operations should not be hindered by speculative apprehensions of adverse impacts on petitioner’s business. Public interest considerations are crucial in such matters, and support the dismissal of the petition,” observed the court.

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