The Madras High Court was recently prompted to take critical note of the proclivity to change state policies when new governments come into power, regardless of whether it is being done in public interest. The opening line of an order passed by a Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and P Velmurugan reads,
"This Court reminds me of a dialogue in Tamil Cinema of actor Sivaji Ganesan in a film ... 'If a new administration comes, everything will be done afresh'. This case would stand as an example that if there is a change of Government, the policies will also be changed. In the State of Tamil Nadu, it is a fact that when there is change of Government, the policies definitely would be changed without considering that whether the current policy is good for the people or not".
The Court was dealing with a plea filed challenging the re-introduction of a package system while awarding government contracts by the present AIADMK-led regime. It was the appellant's case that the scheme was introduced arbitrarily to favour selected contractors and eliminate other contractors in the field.
The system in question was first introduced in 2003, when the AIADMK government led by Chief Minister J Jayalalitha was in power. It was withdrawn in 2006 when the DMK party, led by Chief Minister M Karunanidhi ruled the State. Thereafter, it was re-introduced in 2012 when the AIADMK assumed power. The Bench observed,
"The policy changes according to the ruling party, according to its wish. However, what is to be seen is, whether the policy decision taken by the Government is firstly in larger interest of people or it is in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India or arbitrary."
In this case, however, the Bench found that the policy had been issued in public interest, finding merit in the submissions made by Advocate General Vijay Narayan that the package system was introduced to do away with hardships and difficulties associated with a single tender system and ensure the completion of works in a time-bound manner.
Further, the Bench also noted that the petitioner does not meet the annual turnover requirements prescribed, apart from not having the resources to execute the contract sought for. As noted in the judgment,
"In this case on hand, the condition imposed is that every tenderer should have achieved annual turn over in the last five years of 40% of the value of the contract. The appellant is no way near to that amount ... the works awarded here are different for which he does not have the manpower or machine support and financial capacity to execute the contract."
It, therefore, dismissed the plea, while also noting,
"When that is the policy decision taken by the Government in the interest of the public, as explained in the impugned Government Order, this Court cannot set aside the said Government Order. This Court is also convinced that the said Government Order has been introduced only in public interest. When public interest is paramount, no other criteria could be considered by this Court".
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