Court orders New Delhi civic body to hold Wi-Fi tender

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) not to finalise a disputed tender with Indus Towers for providing free WiFi to residents through some 18,500 street poles under the civic authority`s jurisdiction.

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) not to finalise a disputed tender with Indus Towers for providing free WiFi to residents through some 18,500 street poles under the civic authority`s jurisdiction.

A division bench of Justice BD Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva directed the corporation not to proceed on the project till July 27, the next date of hearing. The tender is part of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal`s pet project of giving free Wi-Fi to Delhiites at various spots.

"Till we hear the matter finally, further action, pursuant to the tender, shall not take place," the bench said, after hearing a plea by Reliance Jio that had sought suspension of the Rs 220 crore contract, that includes installation of CCTVs and replacement of street lights with LED bulbs.

Indus Towers was set up in 1997 in a joint venture among the entities of Bharti Group, Vodafone India and Aditya Birla Telecom to provide passive infrastructure services to telecom providers. Reliance Jio is the broadband arm of Reliance Industries, with plans for pan-India 4G services. 

Reliance Jio had asked court to quash the letter of intent issued to Indus Towers for the project and said that while its commissioning was expected to conclude in three years, the tender was for a 10-year period.

During the hearing, the court asked the civic council`s counsel as to why the request for the proposal did not lay down the specification for the electrical equipment, wondering if the highest bidder could have even installed LED lights and CCTV cameras of cheap quality.

After hearing counsel for the NDMC, the court did not agree with the justifications and prima facie found the terms wrong and invalid. It said the larger issue of public has to be addressed before finalising the bids.

While directing the civic body not to enter into any contract with Indus Tower, the court also ordered the parties to file their written submissions within two pages, at least one week before the next date of hearing -- July 27.

But the parties were allowed to file additional documents within four weeks.

In its prayer, Reliance Jio said the NDMC did not act in a fair and just manner and that the company was not even given an opportunity of fair and reasonable hearing in the form a pre-bid meeting to discuss any ambiguity or discrepancies in the tender process.

The company further said at the time of opening the financial bids it was found that the Indus Towers` bid was for 20 years, but request for proposal was just for a 10-year contract. The letters were issued even as it was assured that a panel will look into the matter, Reliance Jio said.

The NDMC sought to counter the arguments and said the writ petition by Reliance Jio had been filed after a delay of more than 45 days from the date when financial bids were opened by the council, in the presence of the representatives of both bidders.

It also said various pre-bid meetings were actually held during which the detailed scope of work was explained to the prospective bidders. It said the contract was for a period of 10 years, and extendable by 10 more years, for which the bid from Indus Towers was much higher.

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