With a view to improving the quality of food and service to passengers, the Supreme Court on Friday allowed the Railways to complete the tender process for award of catering contracts in railway stations as per the 2010 catering policy.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Vikramjit Sen, after hearing Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Jain for the Railways and senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi and senior counsel V. Giri for the caterers, stayed an order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and allowed the Railways to complete the tender process.

In its brief order the Bench said: “The petitioners [Railways] are permitted to continue with the tender process. However, we make it clear that the respondents [caterers] shall not be displaced for the present, so also the interveners.”

Mr. Jain argued that the Railway administration had invited sealed bids/tenders as per the 2010 policy for grant of licences for establishment of catering stalls/fruit and fruit juice stalls in small minor units in various categories of railway stations. He said the existing licencees, who were granted licence on nomination basis more than 40 years ago had challenged the tender documents before the AP High Court.

Upon consideration, the High Court directed the Railways to consider their applications for renewal and also held that they were entitled for renewal subject to satisfactory performance. The present appeal is against this order. Mr. Jain submitted that the existing licences could not be renewed under the 2010 catering policy as they were not granted licences under it .

Mr. Jain explained to the court the objectives of the Catering Policy, 2010, saying that it was intended to provide hygienic food facilities for railway passengers at railway stations. On the contention of the counsel for caterers that their licences ought to be renewed, he said that in some cases, the Railways had granted renewal as a stop-gap arrangement to ensure uninterrupted services to passengers and by that it could not be construed that licence of existing licencees had been renewed.

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