Tender for electric buses: Bombay HC upholds disqualification of Tata Motors by BEST

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The Bombay High Court on Tuesday upheld the decision by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) to disqualify Tata Motors Ltd from a tender bid for supplying electric buses worth about Rs 2,450 crore.
“The petitioner (Tata Motors) was rightly disqualified. It is also held that the decision of BEST to hold Evey Trans technically responsive is incorrect. Evey is also held non-responsive. BEST may, if required, issue fresh tender,” a division bench of Justices Sanjay V Gangapurwala and Madhav J Jamdar held.
On June 7, the bench had concluded hearing and reserved verdict in Tata Motors’ plea challenging the May 6 decision by BEST.
BEST had published a tender notice for the operation of stage carriage services of 1,400 single-decker AC electric buses (with driver) for Mumbai and its suburbs on a gross cost contract (GCC) model for 12 years.
Tata Motors, through senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi who was briefed by the team of Karanjawala & Company, argued that the company’s technical bid was arbitrarily rejected to give unfair favour to Evey Trans Private Limited, which won the tender. The company said that BEST selectively relaxed norms and even waived certain requirements to facilitate other bidders and this benefitted Evey Trans.
Further, Tata Motors said that its bid, in conformity with tender conditions, had provided a guarantee that its buses can ply 200 km on a charge of 80 per cent without any interruption. The plea said the BEST had erroneously declared the bid submitted by Tata Motors as ‘technically non-responsive’ and sought that it be reviewed.
In its reply to the plea, BEST said the company had no locus (standing) to question the process once its bid was declared ‘technically non-responsive’. The transport authority’s reply stated that company was a bidder in a tender process and its bid was declared ‘technically non-responsive’ for allegedly deviating from tender specifications, and hence it has no locus to question the process.
BEST clarified that Tata Motors deviated from the conditions to the extent that it was to submit the models after testing them under simulated conditions using Automotive Industry Standards (AIS) measures. However, the transport authority had mandated the buses to be tested under ‘Actual Operating Conditions’ (AOC), which included the number of people being carried, the road conditions and the traffic.
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