Censuring the State government for causing a large number of litigations related to civil contracts across Karnataka, owing to a lack of clarity and confusion in policies and circulars issued in 2022, the High Court of Karnataka has advised the government to ensure that policies are not in conflict with each other and they should benefit the public at large.
The court made these observations on noticing conflicts in the parameters for awarding general contracts for civil works and those contracts for civil works entrusted under the Amritha Nagarothana scheme.
The litigations had the effect of stalling the works initiated for the public, the court observed.
Justice M.I. Arun passed the order on a batch of petitions filed by various taluk-level contractors’ associations, led by the Hangal Taluk Civil Contractors’ Association.
The petitioners had questioned the packaging of civil works by clubbing various works to make the value of each tender over ₹1 crore. They contended that such packaging is contrary to a circular issued by the government on May 11, 2022 to ensure that the tender value should be less than ₹1 crore to enable the participation of small contractors in the tender process.
However, the court noted that the government had failed to inform the court, during an earlier round of litigation, that there were separate yardsticks for awarding of tenders under the Amritha scheme and for general civil works.
The government earlier had not brought to the court’s notice about the existence of Government Order (GO) of January 14, 2022, which was specifically applicable for Amritha scheme contracts, where the tender value has to be over ₹1 crore by clubbing various works, Justice Arun pointed out.
Holding that the circular of May, 2022, which was issued after a meeting of the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association with the Chief Minister to help small contractors in general civil works, the court said that the mandate of the circular is not application to the tenders of the Amritha scheme, which is governed under a GO issued under the State’s executive power.
While refusing to interfere with the different yardsticks for issuing tenders for civil works under the Amritha scheme and the general civil works, the court said: “The conduct of the State in the entire proceedings cannot be appreciated and requires censure.”