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Court pulls up contractor for stale food on trains
Published on 16 Aug. 2009 11:48 PM IST
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The Delhi High Court has pulled up a contractor whose services had been terminated for supplying stale food to the Shatabadi and Rajdhani trains and noted that the offence was “a very serious one”. A division bench headed by Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice Manmohan last week ticked off the contractor, who had filed an appeal against a single bench order. The division bench said: “Service of supplying stale buns is a very serious one and the same coupled with 24 complaints over a period of time shows that the services rendered was unsatisfactory.” The court was hearing a plea filed by R.D. Sharma and Sons against the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) after his licence of supplying food in Shatabadi and Rajdhani trains was terminated. According to Sharma’s counsel A.M. Singhvi, the catering contract, though valid till Aug 2010, had been terminated midstream on account of a policy decision taken by the IRCTC to departmentally take over the catering work of all Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains. Singhvi pointed out that the petitioner had invested a huge amount of money by way of advance concession fee amounting to Rs.2.56 crore (Rs.25.6 million) for the complete five-year tenure along with a security deposit of Rs.20 lakh (Rs.2 million). He added that the petitioner had invested in creating infrastructure for setting up base kitchens en route the trains in question. However, IRCTC contended that termination of the petitioner’s contract had nothing to do with the department’s policy decision and stated that the railways received a large number of complaints against the petitioner and also cited how he had been fined Rs.20,000 for the same reason. “We are of the opinion that the termination order in the present case had been passed in terms of the contract itself and not because of an alleged policy decision. We are fortified in our view by the admitted fact that even as of today a large number of private catering contracts are in subsistence in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains. If the petitioner’s argument with regard to premeditated exercise and predetermined decision were correct then not only the petitioner’s catering contract but also all other catering contracts in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains would have been taken over,” the bench noted. “As far as the terminating authority’s order for hiring cooks and buying utensils in advance is concerned, we are of the opinion that if an order had not been placed in advance, then public interest would have suffered as passengers cannot be asked to go without food till alternative arrangements are made post termination,” the bench said while dismissing Sharma’s appeal.

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