The Delhi High Court has sought response of the
Centre on a PIL seeking cancellation of a lease awarding 50 acres of land at
Kandla Port in Gujarat to a private firm.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and
Justice C Hari Shankar issued notice to the Ministry of Shipping, Kandla Port
Trust and the firm, Friends Salt Works and Allied Industries (FSWAI), and
sought their stand on the plea by an NGO which has termed the tender process as
The court listed the matter for further hearing
on September 24.
The NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation
(CPIL), has alleged that the Kandla Port Trust (KPT) overvalued the structures
set up at the site by FSWAI, when it had leased the land in the past, to ensure
that only the firm gets the contract.
The petition, filed by the advocate Prashant
Bhushan, alleged that KPT overvalued the assets, including a liquid storage
tank terminal, at Rs 207 crore which a successful bidder for the land had to
pay to FSWAI under the new tender issued in 2014.
It said that the FSWAI in its balance sheet had
valued the structures at Rs 48 crore.
The petition claimed that FSWAI did not have to
pay the amount of Rs 207 crore if it was successful in the bid and added that
under the earlier lease agreement KPT did not have any contractual obligation
to compensate the firm for its assets.
The NGO has sought that if the lease awarded to
the firm in April 2015 is not cancelled, then the amount of Rs 207 crore be
recovered from it.
"The introduction of said clause in the
tender (to compensate FSWAI) is illegal and arbitrary since it was the
responsibility of FSWAI to remove the structures before the expiry of the
(earlier) lease. The additional burden of Rs 207 crore on other bidders put
them at a significant disadvantage and ensured that the said tender would be
awarded to FSWAI," the NGO has alleged in its plea.
CPIL had earlier raised the issue in a fresh
application moved in a pending petition which claimed that a huge scam had
taken place during 1960s and 1970s when plots near Kandla Port were leased out
on nomination basis to private parties without a bidding process.
The court, however, had asked the NGO to file a
separate petition to challenge the new lease and subsequently it filed the
earlier PIL had also alleged irregularities in allotment of 16,000 acres of
government land which caused a huge loss to the state.