Civil court to hear dispute over bridge

Contentious: The railway over-bridge near Sellur in the city under construction.   | Photo Credit: — File Photo by S. JAMES

Staff Reporter

Bench issues directive to engineering company

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has directed a private engineering company constructing the railway over-bridge between Sellur and Thathaneri to approach the civil court concerned to solve the dispute over the agreement signed with the Highways Department in 2003.

Dismissing a writ petition filed by the company, Justice V. Dhanapalan also directed the civil court to dispose of the applications filed by the company as expeditiously as possible in view of the urgency involved in the matter. He held that the writ petition was not maintainable in view of a clause in the agreement entitling the company to approach the civil court.

“Issues involving increase in raw materials and deployment of additional labour force consequent to submission of an alternative design, inclusion of escalation clause (in the agreement), delay in land acquisition process, ratification etc., are too technical aspects for this court to decide and such cannot be gone into by this court which can never act as a fact-finding body,” he said.

The petitioner company said that the bridge should have been completed within 18 months according to the agreement entered on February 26, 2003. Though there was a long delay in completing the land acquisition proceedings, the company began the work in the available property. Two months later, the highways officials directed the company to shift the alignment deviating from the estimated plan and also promised to include a clause providing for escalation of the project cost.

However, the department took 16 months to approve the revised design and did not include the escalation clause despite the recommendations of the then Chief Engineer. In the meantime, the company completed works to the tune of Rs.4,47,75,216 and received only Rs. 63 lakh thereby incurring a loss of Rs. 3,03,06,729, it claimed and sought to quash the Divisional Engineer’s order passed on October 6 last year, terminating the agreement.

On the other hand, Additional Advocate General T. Raja contended that the company was bound to do the construction work at no extra cost in accordance with the changes in the drawings and specifications as mentioned in the agreement. The Highways Department ordered to shift the alignment only based on the report submitted by the petitioner company and not on its own accord, he said.

The then Chief Engineer agreed to include the escalation clause only to cooperate with the petitioner company to complete the project on time. Despite the recommendation, the company had stopped work until the inclusion of the clause which was a breach of clause. It could not complete the project despite extending the timeframe on several occasions.