State Of Kerala And Anr. Etc. Etc. vs M/S Rds Project Limited And Ors. … on 22 September, 2020


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Supreme Court of India

State Of Kerala And Anr. Etc. Etc. vs M/S Rds Project Limited And Ors. … on 22 September, 2020

Author: Rohinton Fali Nariman

Bench: Rohinton Fali Nariman, Navin Sinha, Hon’Ble Ms. Banerjee

                                                             1

                                                                             REPORTABLE

                                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                         CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                      CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 3239-3246 OF 2020
                                 (ARISING OUT OF SLP (C) NOS. 3008-3015 OF 2020)


                         STATE OF KERALA & ANR. ETC. ETC.                  APPELLANTS

                                        VERSUS

                         M/S RDS PROJECT LIMITED & ORS. ETC. ETC.RESPONDENTS




                                                  JUDGMENT

R.F. Nariman, J.

1) Leave granted.

2) Heard Mr. K.K. Venugopal, learned Attorney General for India

appearing on behalf of the State of Kerala, Dr. Abhishek Manu

Singhvi, learned Senior Counsel for the Respondent No.1, Mr.

Gopal Sankaranarayanan, learned Senior Counsel for the

Respondent No.3, Mr. Jaideep Gupta, learned Senior Counsel for

the Respondent No.2, Mr. Rana Mukherjee, learned Senior Counsel

for the Respondent No. 9 and Mr. V. Giri, learned Senior Counsel
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by R
for the Respondent Nos. 4 & 5. The impugned High Court judgment
Natarajan
Date: 2020.09.24
17:19:13 IST
Reason:

dealt with a project called the Palarivattom Flyover on the National

Highway, Cochin City, State of Kerala. This was constructed by
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Respondent No.1 and inaugurated on 12.10.2016. However, after

one year of this Flyover being used, the Consultancy Agency for the

Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, on

regular inspection of the bridge, reported on 16.03.2018 that the

bridge was in a distressed condition with several cracks as a result

of which measures should be taken to rehabilitate the flyover. The

IIT, Madras, was thereafter appointed as an expert agency which

delivered several reports in which, according to it, the bridge could

follow a carbon fibre fabric composite treatment and be repaired

instead of being demolished. Meanwhile, Dr. E. Sreedharan

submitted a report to the Chief Minister of Kerala on 03.07.2019 in

which he recommended the strengthening and replacement of RCC

girders with PSC girders to ensure durability which would

necessitate a demolition and re-construction of the bridge. Dr. E.

Sreedharan, by a report dated 14.09.2019, referred to the IIT

reports and did not agree with the same, stating that if his plan was

to be carried out, a 100 year guarantee would be given for the

newly constructed flyover.

3) Given these divergent streams of opinion, the State Government

then set up a High Level Committee consisting of five persons who

are as follows:-

1. Sri Ashok Kumar M. (Convenor)
Chief Engineer, National Highways,
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Public Works Department
Thiruvananthapuram

2. Sri S.Mano Mohan (Member)
Chief Engineer, Bridges,
Public Works Department
Thiruvananthapuram

3. Sri M.N. Jeevaraj (Member)
Chief Engineer (Rtd.),
Public Works Department
Thiruvananthapuram

4. Sri S. Saju (Member)
Senior Bridge Engineer,
Public Works Department
Thiruvananthapuram

5. Sri S.M. Ashraf (Member)
Senior Structural Engineer,
Public Works Department
Thiruvananthapuram

4) It will be noticed that apart from experts who were engineers,

one of whom was a Senior Bridge Engineer, a Senior Structural

Engineer of the PWD was also a member of this Committee. This

Committee went into the IIT reports and the Sreedharan report in

some detail, after which it concluded as follows:

“9. Conclusion

“a. The tests carried out by IIT Chennai are as per IS
codes and IRC recommendations. IIT Chennai being
a premier and reputed institution, their findings can be
accepted and relied on. However, a load test as
specified in IRC 112:2011 has not been proposed by
IIT Chennai. The reasons are not mentioned in their
report. The Committee feels that since crack width in
certain girders have exceeded the allowable limits
which is one of the compliance criteria for load test, IIT
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might have decided that there is no point in doing a
load test before strengthening. However, IIT has
recommended load test after strengthening the flyover.
IIT has suggested its scheme for strengthening the
flyover, which again is as per IRC recommendations.
But, IIT has not mentioned the service life of the
flyover after strengthening. IRC also does not
recommend service life of any structure after doing the
strengthening works proposed by IIT.

b) As mentioned by Dr. E.Sreedharan a new
construction with proper design, with quality execution
of the work with quality materials and strict technical
supervision can expect a service life of 100 years.

c) Construction cost of the proposal of demolishing
and replacing of superstructure as proposed by Dr.E.
Sreedharan will cost (18.71 crores), more than double
the cost estimated for the strengthening scheme
proposed by IIT (7.31 crores). The required completion
time for both cases is almost the same.

d) Normally rehabilitation/strengthening are required
for old as well as distressed bridges having service life
of 40 years or more and also strengthening works are
normally required for limited members or locations of a
flyover/bridge. In the case of Palarivattom flyover as
per the findings of IIT Chennai, 97 RCC girders out of
102 girders requires strengthening which is an
extensive strengthening work for superstructure.

Based on the all the above factors, Committee is of the
opinion that considering the service life assured by Dr.
E. Sreedharan for 100 years, it is better to accept the
proposal by him.”

5) The State of Kerala, by a G.O. dated 25.10.2019, examined this

High Level Committee Report, and accepted it, stating as follows:

“6. Government have examined the whole matter in
detail and have decided to accept the
recommendations of the Technical Committee and to
proceed accordingly.

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It is also decided to accept the letter of offer made by
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to take over the bridge for
rehabilitation as per letter read as 6 th above. DMRC
shall submit detailed item wise estimate for approval of
Government. On the basis of the detailed estimate,
Finance Department shall allot funds in the appropriate
Head of Account for the purpose. RBDCK will hand
over the bridge site to DMRC free of all encumbrances.

7. RBDCK shall realize the loss sustained to the
Government from the contractor in the light of the
report of IIT Madras, report of Dr. E.Sreedharan and
the FIR filed in case No. 1/2019 of Moovattupuzha
Vigilance Court and as per the relevant provisions of
the agreement. RBDCK shall also initiate action
against the contractor for the lapses as per PWD
Manual.

8. This order will be subject to the final decision of
Hon’ble High Court in WP (C)s 25343, 25362 and
26405 of 2019.”

6) At this point, a Writ Petition was filed by the Respondent No.1 in

the Kerala High Court against the aforesaid G.O. By the impugned

judgment, the Kerala High Court went into the terms, in particular,

clause 11 of the original tender between the contractor-

Respondent No.1 and the State, and then considered the various

reports. The High Court also noticed that a vigilance enquiry had

been conducted because there were allegations that there was

large scale corruption, and as part of it, a team of experts from the

Government Engineering College, Trichur reported that there are

2183 cracks on the girders out of which 99 cracks are above 0.3
6

mm width and 83 cracks on pier caps out of which 5 cracks are

about 0.3 mm width.

7) After considering the arguments of counsel appearing for all

parties, including the Respondent No.3- KITCO, stating that a load

test is extremely necessary for the purpose of ascertaining the

strength of the flyover before anything further is done to it, the High

Court concluded:

“19. There is no dispute about the fact that as per the
terms of contract between the parties, load test is a
requirement to be performed to ascertain the strength
of the bridge and to ensure that it has the expected
strength. According to the contractor, though certain
cracks have developed in the girders, it needs only
repairs which the contractor is willing to do and it
would not affect the strength of the bridge in any way.
A similar view had been expressed by the consultant
M/s KITCO as well. According to them, the load test is
mandatory to ascertain the strength of the bridge, and
if the girders and platform are demolished, such an
opportunity will be lost. The Government and its
authorities are not in favour of a load test since they
feel that the aforesaid cracks itself are enough to
arrive at a conclusion that those girders are to be
demolished. Government had already taken a
decision to remove the platform and girders. Once it is
removed and demolished, it may not be possible to
ascertain the strength of the present structure, which
may prejudicially affect the right of all the stakeholders,
including the Government. The contractor as well as
the consultant still believes that the load test would
prove that there is no requirement for demolishing the
structure. Therefore, before demolishing the platform
and the girders, it is better to have a load test
conducted, to avoid any further controversy in the
matter. After conducting such load test, it shall be
open for the Government and its authorities to take a
decision whether they should proceed in accordance
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with the manner in which they have already decided or
to take a different approach in the matter.

In the result, the following directions are issued.

(i) That the Government shall conduct a load test of
the Palarivattom flyover through an approved qualified
agency capable of conducting such a test, with notice
to all the stakeholders.

(ii) The entire expenditure for conducting the load test
shall be borne by the petitioner in WP (C) No.
26030/2019.

(iii) The entire process shall be completed within a
period of three months or at an early date, as may be
possible.

(iv) After conducting the load test, the Government
shall file a statement before this Court along with the
report of the concerned agency.”

8) Having perused the High Court judgment, what is clear is that

the High Court, instead of applying the well-established parameters

of judicial review and ascertaining whether the decision of the State

Government would violate Article 14, went into the matter itself and

stated that it is better to have a “load test conducted to avoid any

further controversy in the matter”.

9) Given the fact that an Expert Committee, which is a High level

Committee of five experts was set up to go into the divergent

opinions of IIT Madras and Dr. E. Sreedharan, and the experts

having come to a particular conclusion, it is very difficult then to say

that the Government, in accepting such Expert Committee Report,
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could be said to have behaved arbitrarily. On this ground alone, we

set aside the judgment of the High Court, as also the review

judgment.

10) The appeals are allowed in the aforesaid terms.

11) The Writ Petitions that are pending in the High Court may be

disposed of within a period of six months from today.

…………………………………….. J.

(ROHINTON FALI NARIMAN)

…………………………………….. J.

(NAVIN SINHA)

…………………………………….. J.

(INDIRA BANERJEE)

New Delhi;

September 22, 2020.



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