Legal Correspondent

It is possibly one of the biggest scams in post-independent India, says counsel

No transparency in award of contract to EMRI: counsel

“EMRI all set to withdraw crores from public funds”

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre, 12 States and the Emergency Management Research Institute (EMRI) on a petition challenging the privatisation of ambulance services or emergency response services under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

A Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam issued notice on the petition filed by Ambulance Access Foundation India, providing ambulance services in the country, and Transparency in Contracts, a lawyers’ organisation seeking a probe in the award of contracts.

Notices were issued to the States of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Goa, Assam, Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka, Maharashtra and the EMRI. The Bench directed deletion of the name of the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Chairman emeritus of EMRI and others in the management of the EMRI saying the organisation could respond to the charges rather than individuals.

Appearing for the petitioners, senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan alleged that there was no transparency in the process of award of contract for operating ambulance or emergency response service to the EMRI. He alleged that the EMRI was all set to withdraw an estimated amount of Rs.3,800 crore from public funds and get in control and possession of prime government land in State capitals.

“Burden on exchequer”

He said the signing of MoUs by the State governments with the EMRI for running the ambulance services would cause huge burden on the State exchequer. He said advertisements for the proposed emergency services were so drafted that only EMRI could qualify for the contract.

Mr. Dhavan submitted that it “is possibly one of the biggest scams in post-independent India as the process of award of contracts to operate ambulances and emergency response services had been effected without following the due process for award of contracts.”

The petitioners, while seeking a thorough probe into the awarding contracts to the EMRI, sought a direction to the States to take back the ambulances from EMRI and run them on their own and award exemplary damages against the errant firm. They wanted a transparent and fair process in awarding of contracts for running ambulance services.