Airport revamp kicks off on stormy note

Mumbai, Jan 31 | Updated: Feb 1 2006, 05:30am hrs
At least two unsuccessful bidders in the Delhi, Mumbai airport modernisation Reliance and Sterlite were up in arms over the allotment of bids to GMR and GVK on Tuesday. Reliance Airport Developers, an Anil Ambani company, may even take the government to court on the decision. Zee, however, came out in support of the EGoM decision.

A spokesperson for Reliance Airport Developers stated, To our utter shock and surprise, substantial changes to the published tender conditions have been telephonically communicated, in strange circumstances, barely two hours before opening of financial bids. These last minute changes are a complete violation of the RFP.

Sterlite Group spokesperson Dhanpal Jhaveri said, We fail to understand that while our bid qualified for Delhi, why was the bid for Mumbai not even considered. We are confident of the fact that our bids were much more competitive compared to the winner. Sterlite had submitted bids for both Delhi and Mumbai airports.

Zee, however, ruled out taking any legal recourse. We are not going to the court in the larger interest of the countrys civil aviation sector. We support the government and its decision, a spokesperson said. Zee, he said, had offered 100% absorption of AAI employees in its bid for Mumbai airport.

Legal experts too offered different take on the issue. Shardul Thacker, partner, Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe, The governments view is correct. Till tender is finally accepted and confirmed, it is always open to make a change from either of the parties to the tender, as no rights and obligations are created till such a point. It is a basic element in any tender or invitation seeking expression of an offer.

Supreme court advocate Bishwajit Bhattacharyya, however, said, A Writ Court can always exercise its discretionary jurisdiction if there has been any arbitrariness of state action.

Reliance claimed there was no provision in the RFP or tender conditions to give any bidder an option to match the highest bid, that too selectively for only one airport. These changes also reverse the fundamental philosophy of the tender, to favour select bidder(s), and to deny Reliance either of the airports. We are advised these changes are a complete departure from the tender conditions, and are untenable and unconstitutional, the Reliance spokesperson said.

Reliance had emerged as the highest financial bidder for Delhi Airport with 45.99% revenue share and claims to be amongst the 2 highest technically ranked bidders for both airports.