Authors the tender document is the best person to understand and appreciate its requirements
In Galaxy Transport Agencies v. New J.K. Roadways, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1035 a three-judge bench again reiterated that the authority that authors the tender document is the best person to understand and appreciate its requirements, and thus, its interpretation should not be second-guessed by a court in judicial review proceedings. It was observed as thus:
“17. In accordance with these judgments and noting that the interpretation of the tendering authority in this case cannot be said to be a perverse one, the Division Bench ought not to have interfered with it by giving its own interpretation and not giving proper credence to the word “both” appearing in Condition No. 31 of the N.I.T. For this reason, the Division Bench’s conclusion that JK Roadways was wrongly declared to be ineligible, is set aside.
18. Insofar as Condition No. 27 of the N.I.T. prescribing work experience of at least 5 years of not less than the value of Rs. 2 crores is concerned, suffice it to say that the expert body, being the Tender Opening Committee, consisting of four members, clearly found that this eligibility condition had been satisfied by the Appellant before us. Without therefore going into the assessment of the documents that have been supplied to this Court, it is well settled that unless arbitrariness or mala fide on the part of the tendering authority is alleged, the expert evaluation of a particular tender, particularly when it comes to technical evaluation, is not to be second-guessed by a writ court. Thus, in Jagdish Mandal v. State of Orissa, (2007) 14 SCC 517, this Court noted:
“22. Judicial review of administrative action is intended to prevent arbitrariness, irrationality, unreasonableness, bias and mala fides. Its purpose is to check whether choice or decision is made “lawfully” and not to check whether choice or decision is “sound”. When the power of judicial review is invoked in matters relating to tenders or award of contracts, certain special features should be borne in mind. A contract is a commercial transaction. Evaluating tenders and awarding contracts are essentially commercial functions. Principles of equity and natural justice stay at a distance. If the decision relating to award of contract is bona fide and is in public interest, courts will not, in exercise of power of judicial review, interfere even if a procedural aberration or error in assessment or prejudice to a tenderer, is made out. The power of judicial review will not be permitted to be invoked to protect private interest at the cost of public interest, or to decide contractual disputes. The tenderer or contractor with a grievance can always seek damages in a civil court. Attempts by unsuccessful tenderers with imaginary grievances, wounded pride and business rivalry, to make mountains out of molehills of some technical/procedural violation or some prejudice to self, and persuade courts to interfere by exercising power of judicial review, should be resisted. Such interferences, either interim or final, may hold up public works for years, or delay relief and succour to thousands and millions and may increase the project cost manifold. Therefore, a court before interfering in tender or contractual matters in exercise of power of judicial review, should pose to itself the following questions:
(i) Whether the process adopted or decision made by the authority is mala fide or intended to favour someone;
Whether the process adopted or decision made is so arbitrary and irrational that the court can say:“ the decision is such that no responsible authority acting reasonably and in accordance with relevant law could have reached”;
(ii) Whether public interest is affected.
If the answers are in the negative, there should be no interference under Article 226. Cases involving blacklisting or imposition of penal consequences on a tenderer/contractor or distribution of State largesse (allotment of sites/shops, grant of licences, dealerships and franchises) stand on a different footing as they may require a higher degree of fairness in action.”
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20- This being the case, we are unable to fathom how the Division Bench, on its own appraisal, arrived at the conclusion that the Appellant held work experience of only 1 year, substituting the appraisal of the expert four-member Tender Opening Committee with its own.”