New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the National Highways Authority of India, or NHAI, to allow two consortia it had removed from the shortlist of a Rs1,460 crore highway project in Andhra Pradesh to make price bids for the project, people close to the matter said.
According to lawyer Anupam Lal Das, who represented the consortium led by Soma Enterprise Ltd, which had filed a special leave petition contesting its removal from the final shortlist, the court suggested that top eight contenders be allowed to submit price bids for the highway between Hyderabad and Vijayawada.
Bidding war: The Supreme Court has directed the highways regulator to consider financial bids of eight contenders. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
“The Supreme Court in its judgement on Tuesday directed NHAI to provide RFP (request for proposal) documents to all the eight candidates,” Das said. “The financial bids of the eight parties will have to be considered by NHAI.”
Besides Soma Enterprise, the companies/consortia that will be on the new shortlist are GMR Infrastructures Ltd, GVK Industries Ltd, Madhucon Projects Ltd, Shapoorji Pallonji and Co. Ltd, Larsen and Toubro Ltd, Hindustan Construction Co. Ltd and Maytas Infra Ltd.
The apex court is yet to publish its judgement, but a senior NHAI official said he had been told by the authority’s lawyers that the court had suggested extending the shortlist. “That is our understanding, but without seeing the judgement, it is very hard to say anything.” He declined to be identified.
Interestingly, one of the companies in the shortlist—Madhucon Projects—has been debarred by NHAI for non-performance on another highway stretch, but it was not immediately clear whether they would be allowed to bid for this project.
“Since it is only a qualification stage and not the final bidding, they have increased the size of the list (allowing all eight bidders to put in final bid documents),” said an official with Soma Enterprise on condition of anonymity.
The government’s earlier shortlisting criteria allowed bids from only five-seven top bidders based on prior experience. The criteria, first introduced in May 2007, were removed in September 2008 following legal challenges from bidders and a trade body representing highway contractors. NHAI continued using the criteria for some 60 projects that were already being evaluated.
(Malathi Nayak contributed to this story.)