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Delhi High Court Dismisses PIL Challenging Tender Invitations Issued By PSUs For Empanelment Of Law Firms Based On Turn Over Criteria

Nupur Thapliyal
19 Feb 2022 8:45 AM GMT
Delhi High Court Dismisses PIL Challenging Tender Invitations Issued By PSUs For Empanelment Of Law Firms Based On Turn Over Criteria
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The Delhi High Court has dismissed a public interest litigation challenging the Tender invitations issued by Public Sector Undertakings and other registered Corporates or Companies, including Directorate General of Hydrocarbons, for empanelment of a Law Firm on the basis of money or turn-over criteria as being ultra vires the Advocates Act, 1961. Justice Manmohan and Justice Navin...

The Delhi High Court has dismissed a public interest litigation challenging the Tender invitations issued by Public Sector Undertakings and other registered Corporates or Companies, including Directorate General of Hydrocarbons, for empanelment of a Law Firm on the basis of money or turn-over criteria as being ultra vires the Advocates Act, 1961.

Justice Manmohan and Justice Navin Chawla dismissed the petition filed by Advocate Md. Ehraz Zafar which sought a direction on the Centre to formulate a new uniform guideline for engagement and empanelment of lawyers and advocates.

Observing that it would not be proper or appropriate to relax the standing doctrine and entertain a Public Interest Litigation on the cause raised by the petitioner, the Court said thus:

"The settled principle of law is that an aggrieved person must approach the Court. The standing doctrine characteristic is that a potential litigant must be injured by the action it is challenging."

"Standing for individuals has been relaxed by the Indian Courts by entertaining Public Interest Litigation in the event, the person aggrieved is too poor or does not have the means to approach the Court. In fact in a Public Interest Litigation case, there need be no litigant. The concept of Public Interest Litigation is primarily linked to the enforcement of social and economic rights in India."

Advocate Zafar who appeared in person submitted before the Court that the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas had published an 'E-Tender for Empanelment of Law Firms for a Period of three years on Open National Competitive Bidding Basis' at its website.

He added that in the said E tender, the eligibility criteria as mentioned under the head 'Rejection Criteria' clearly stipulated that the Law Firm bidding for empanelment should have average annual turnover of at least Rs. 50 Crores in the last three Financial Years ending 31st March, 2021.

He therefore submitted that setting down such an economic criteria for eligibility infringes the Fundamental Rights of the Petitioner as well as other similarly situated persons as conferred under Articles 14, 16, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Noting that it was not the case of the Petitioner that he wanted to apply under the E-Tender and that due to the eligibility criteria, he was prevented from applying, the Court said:

"The petitioner claims that he has filed the present Public Interest Litigation trying to raise a public cause. However, this Court is of the view that the 'persons aggrieved' in the present case are lawyers or law firms, who appear in Courts daily. They are fully familiar with the practice and procedure of the Court and have access to the Court all the time."

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the petition.

Case Title: MD. EHRAZ ZAFAR v. UNION OF INDIA & ORS.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 133

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