The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to examine whether fair and transparent procedure had been adopted in allotting modernisation works of the two metro airports, with Anil Ambani Group firm Reliance Airport Developers alleging that there was deviation from the process by lowering of standards.
Contending that lowering of the benchmark from 80 per cent to 50 per cent was totally arbitrary, Reliance questioned the choice given to GMR for adopting the Delhi airport on opening of the financial bid.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Group submitted that despite poor Initial Development Plan (IDP) of GMR for the Delhi airport it was given a choice for the same.
"Was it proper for GMR to be given a choice for Delhi if its IDP was poor," he said before a Bench comprising of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice SH Kapadia.
The court was hearing the appeal filed by Reliance challenging the Delhi High Court verdict upholding the government's decision to allot modernisation works of Delhi and Mumbai airports to rival bidders GMR and GVK-led consortia.
The company contended that as the highest financial bidder for the Delhi airport and as the highest technical bidder for the Mumbai airport, it should have been awarded at least one of the projects.
Rohatgi said since GMR and Reliance were the only qualified bidders after the former chose to bid for Delhi, the slot for Bombay airport was open and fresh bidding could have been initiated.
Reliance submitted that even after downgrading the standard for Mumbai airport it was higher than GVK which was disqualified. GVK only had the higher revenue sharing, its counsel said.
"GVK was never in the running. GVK was given a higher financial bid but it was nowhere near the benchmark, nowhere near the 80 marks," Rohatgi said.
He said if GMR would have preferred Mumbai then the modernisation of the Delhi airport would have come to Reliance as it was next to GMR in the grading after lowering of the standard and as the highest financial bidder.
The counsel said though he was not challenging the policy on privatisation of airports it was not an ordinary matter and huge public assets were involved.
The matter concerns the privatisation of airports in the country which was the first of its kind and some more airports are in the pipeline.
Reliance had filed a Special Leave Petition against the April 21 verdict, which held that the government's action was in no way "discriminatory, illogical or illegal".
While upholding the technical parameters adopted in awarding the contracts, the High Court had said the government and the AAI had "absolute discretion to vary the tender requirements or amend the term of RFP (Request for Proposal)" as per the requirements of the project.
Reliance has challenged the award of contracts to GMR and GVK led consortia on the ground that the government and the AAI had deliberately amended tender norms to favour the rival bidders.