The Bombay high court wants to know how the students of civic schools in Mumbai benefitted from the use of electronic tablets provided by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), for which the civic body had spent Rs32 crore.
“We want the municipal commissioner to personally look into the matter,” said the bench of chief justice Manjula Chellur and justice Girish Kulkarni. “We also want to know the outcome of this huge expenditure. What knowledge the students have acquired using these tabs?” the judges asked.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by activist Prithviraj Maske, who alleged fraud in awarding tenders to purchase these tabs for Class 8 students of civic schools. Maske also sought a probe into the purported fraud by a special investigation team or an independent investigation agency.
The judges were irked to find out that of the 22,799 tabs purchased by the BMC in 2015-16, about 10,000 did not work properly. Maske informed the bench that students of the current batch were also facing problems with their tabs.
The judges said they would issue a public notice inviting complaints from civic students using the purportedly sub-standard tabs. The bench said it would appoint a committee to examine the complaints if the supplier —Techno Electronics Limited — did not come up with a satisfactory explanation.
The supplier’s counsel, however, maintained that they have received only 1,139 complaints about the functioning of the tabs — from roughly 5% of the total users. They said the petitioner’s claim was exaggerated and based on incomplete information.
Last year, the BMC purchased 2,799 tablets for 6,850 each, to be provided to students over two academic sessions. The tender was issued in February last year. The petitioner alleged that the contract was awarded to the firm even though it did not fulfil several tender conditions.
It was alleged that though the tabs are said to be manufactured by Videocon, they bear no trademarks or symbols to this effect. The tabs were purportedly manufactured and assembled by China-based brand BOLLD.