New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the bidding process of the Rs1,460 crore Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway four-lane project in Andhra Pradesh (AP), further delaying the opening of financial bids for the project.
The project, under the second phase of the mammoth National Highways Development Programme, or NHDP, was among the first of the 60 highway bids that were supposed to be tendered this year.
The directive came after a consortium, which includes Isolux Corsan and Soma Enterprise Ltd, challenged a high court decision of 16 December, which had reversed a change effected by the highway regulator, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), in the final shortlist. NHAI had struck off Madhucon Projects Pvt. Ltd and GMR Infrastructure Ltd and instead replaced them with Soma and another consortium between Shapoorji Pallonji and Co. Ltd and Spanish road developer Cintra Infrastructuras de Transporte SA.
Legal battle: A file photo of a highway project. The Andhra Pradesh project ran into trouble after the shortlist of bidders was changed. Rajeev Dabral / Mint
After the high court restored the original shortlist, Isolux and Soma challenged the decision in the Supreme Court.
The consortium has filed two separate petitions against Madhucon and GMR. The apex court on Tuesday heard the petition against Madhucon and passed a similar stay.
The bids in question had a two-stage evaluation process. First, interested bidders were to be evaluated by comparing technical scores, derived from past experience. Only the top six consortiums would then be allowed to place price bids for the projects.
Mint had first reported on 29 August that a legal battle was likely after the highway authority reviewed its initial shortlist, and replaced two of the original bidders.
An executive with the Isolux-Soma consortium, who did not want to be quoted because the matter was sub-judice, said ,“Regardless of the high court verdict, I think whatever they did in the first round stands. Our case is genuine.”
“The case is not against us per se. But since we were the beneficiaries (in the Delhi high court case) we have to appear,” said S.V. Patwardhan, executive director, Madhucon Projects.
The court scheduled the next hearing of the case for 3 February.