Mumbai: HC raps BMC for hiring tainted contractors to build bridges

Even though it had filed an FIR against both contractors, BMC gave them contracts worth Rs 223 crore to build four bridges

The Bombay High Court came down heavily on the BMC after it gave contracts to build four bridges for Rs 223 crore to two contractors against whom the police had registered an FIR.

Hancock bridge, seen here before it was brought down, was one of the bridges to be built. File pic
Hancock bridge, seen here before it was brought down, was one of the bridges to be built. File pic

The Standing Committee of the BMC had on May 4 given contracts to two contractors, J Kumar Infra and RPS Infrastructure Projects Ltd, to build the Hancock Bridge in Byculla, a bridge on the Lokhandwala creek in Andheri, a bridge on the Mithi river in BKC and a railway crossing bridge at Vikhroli.

The BMC has registered an FIR against J Kumar Infra and RPS Infrastructure, said advocate Vijay Hiremath who appeared for the petitioner, Jayashree Khadilkar Pandey.

The counsel for the companies told the bench of Justices Bhushan Gavai and Dr Shalini Phansalkar Joshi, that they had not been blacklisted by the civic body.

“Weren’t there any other bidders? Why do you want to assign contracts to contractors with criminal background?” asked Justice Gavai.

Senior counsel Anil Singh, who appeared for BMC, told the bench that preliminary work had already been started by the contractors.

“What have they started working on?” asked Gavai. “Soil testing and survey work has begun,” Singh replied.

“See if there are low bidders, so that work can be assigned to some other contractors,” said Gavai and kept the matter for Friday, asking Singh to take instructions from the BMC commissioner on the issue.

“We have been opposing the assigning of contracts since day one. How come somebody who has already cheated the BMC be given contracts again?” asked Pravin Chheda, opposition leader, BMC.

— Inputs by Ranjeet Jadhav and Tanvi Deshpande

BMC speak

A senior civic official expressed his doubts about re-awarding contracts. “The contracts were given within the legal framework. The contractors have not been blacklisted yet. The BMC will never do anything illegal. Then on what basis will we scrap those contracts? We will present our side before the court. Let us wait for their orders,” he said.

An FIR was registered by BMC against six contractors, Mahavir Road Infra, KR Infra, RK Madani, Relcon Infra, J Kumar Infra and RPS Infrastructure by BMC on April 28 at Azad Maidan police station, for carrying out sub-standard work and irregularities in road repair work in the city. The BMC had taken 34 samples from 200 places where work was carried out, and it found several irregularities. The loss caused to the civic body was estimated at Rs 14 crore for which it has also sacked two engineers.

Jitendra Gupta, Transport Expert
I personally feel that in the first place, the BMC should have not awarded contracts worth R200 crore to the contractors against whom it had registered an FIR.

Sanjay Shirodkar, Toll activist
It is high time the government stopped taking the taxpayers for granted. The contracts given to contractors found guilty of irregularities should be scrapped.

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