A Czech-based manufacturer of anti-mine boots for the military has moved the Supreme Court for appointment of an arbitrator after the trial of the boots failed twice at the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL) here. The failures resulted in termination of the procurement contract.
The company, Zeman Technogroup Limited, filed an application before the apex court on March 26 that came up for hearing on April 17, and the SC has asked the ministry of defence (MoD) to reply by July 17.
Zeman's petition alleged that instead of appointing an arbitrator as per the contract for procurement of the boots, the director general, weapon and equipment, MoD, unilaterally terminated the contract.
The company's advocate, Guneet Chaudhary, added that as per the agreement, the complete pre-dispatch inspection (PDI), including visual and blast tests was to be conducted in Czech Republic.
However, the MoD's director general of quality assurance (DGQA) unilaterally changed the venue for blast tests to TBRL, Panchkula, without amendment to the original contract. Zeman reluctantly consented, the lawyer said.
The contract with Zeman was signed for 29,740 pairs of anti-mine boots. Between September 30, 2009, and October 15, 2009, the first PDI was carried out in Czech Republic in the presence of the Indian team. But the team refused to sign certificate of conformity on the grounds that the blast tests be held in India.
"On September 11, 2009, the DGQA changed the venue of the blasts tests to TBRL, Panchkula, a decision taken without changing the original contract," said Chaudhary.
On November 16 and 17 of 2009, the blast tests were carried out. The boots failed the tests, at which the company officials were not allowed, the company said. Then, the MoD asked the Czech company to convey its willingness to submit a fresh lot of shoes for a second PDI, but at the company's expense, on January 25, 2010.
This PDI was cancelled at the last minute by the MoD on April 9, 2010. Later, the contract was amended on August 23, 2010 for conducting the blast tests at Panchkula.
Between August 29, 2010, and September 6, 2010, a part of the tests was carried out, again in presence of the Indian team, in Czech Republic. Then on September 15-16, blast tests were carried out at Panchkula. The boots failed again, but the company claimed that these tests were again carried out in the absence of any of its representatives.
On April 13, 2011, the company approached defence minister AK Antony for his personal intervention, but almost a year later, on March 19, the MoD sent a notice to the company terminating the contract.