The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday directed the Punjab government to put on hold the further process of e-auction of minor mineral quarries across the state, held on August 12.
The division bench comprising justices Jasbir Singh and GS Sandhawalia also ordered that open bidding for the five mining quarries in Pathankot and two in Rupnagar district would be held in the court on the afternoon of September 6.
The directions came during the hearing of two petitions challenging the e-auction process adopted by the state government allegedly to favour some politically-strong mining contractors by blocking the server during the process. The petitions were filed by Gurdaspur resident Balbir Singh Goraya, who had unsuccessfully participated for five mining quarries in Pathankot on August 12, and SAS Nagar-based company Shree Marble and Building Material Store, which had unsuccessfully bid for two quarries in Rupnagar district.
Both petitioners had alleged that during the bidding on August 12, as the server was blocked during the process, they were denied equal opportunity to compete with other bidders. Goraya had already deposited Rs. 1.63 crore as earnest money for participating in the auction.
Goraya submitted before the court that he was interested in bidding up to Rs. 12 crore for the five mining quarries in Pathankot, but by playing a fraud, the state government fetched only Rs. 8.36 crore, thus causing a huge loss to the state exchequer.
It was on July 24 that the Punjab department of industries and commerce (geological branch) had issued a tender notice for the e-auction. As per information, the state government had pocketed Rs. 28 crore from the e-auction, but as per petitioners, it could have gone up if the server had not blocked partially after 11am (the bidding process was supposed to continue till 2pm).