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Not Feasible To Entertain Plea Relating To Road Development Work In Madhya Pradesh Merely Because Ministry Office Is In Delhi: High Court

20 May 2022 2:20 PM GMT
Not Feasible To Entertain Plea Relating To Road Development Work In Madhya Pradesh Merely Because Ministry Office Is In Delhi: High Court

The Delhi High Court on Friday expressed its distinction to hear a matter pertaining to debarment of a contractor by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of India, in connection with its alleged failure to perform the road development work in Madhya Pradesh.

The plea was filed in the Delhi High Court by Intercontinental Consultants, stating that the head office of the Ministry is in Delhi and the competent authority which issued the SOP under which the order debarring the appellant was issued also has its office in Delhi. Since a single Judge had refused to entertain the matter, the instant appeal was preferred.

Stating that the matter is not one of lack of territorial jurisdiction but of "forum convenience", a Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta suggested the Petitioner to approach the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

"Ministry of Road Transport is overall umbrella agency that is undertaking work of road development in the entire country. Every contract with it is bound to be from Delhi. Does it mean that for every contract you'll come to Delhi? It doesn't mean that. Your place of work is in MP, your contract was executed in MP," the Bench told Appellant's counsel.

It added,

"It may not be a case of complete lack of jurisdiction. It is a matter of forum convenience. The subject matter of contract performed which triggered the process of debarment is in Bhopal, MP. Your alleged lack of performance was noticed there...Just because their head office is in Delhi and the SOP was issued by head office, doesn't mean that challenge to any action taken under the SOP will lie before the head office."

The Counsel for Appellant submitted that the impugned communication dated April 27, 2022 was issued by the Superintending Engineer of MORTH, Bhopal with approval of competent authority. The primary submission was that the competent authority has its Head office in Delhi and therefore courts in Delhi would have the jurisdiction.

The Bench however put it to him that the issue is not really of jurisdiction but forum convenience and it is on this premise that single judge refused to exercise jurisdiction since the contract was executed in MP, the alleged non-performance was in MP and it is the officers of the concerned department at MP who had reported with regard to alleged non-performance of the Appellant to the competent authority.

Thus, the plea was withdrawn with liberty to approach the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

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Case Title: Intercontinental Consultants v. Ministry of Road & Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 479

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