Contractors Having Militant Relatives Can Participate in Govt Tenders, Rules High Court

   

SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday ruled in favor of contractors previously delisted for being relatives of militants and separatists, allowing them to participate in the tendering process, the The Hindu reported on Tuesday.

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The court quashed an order from the Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, issued on March 15, 2023.

Justice Sanjeev Kumar heard multiple petitions from local contractors who were denied permission to participate in government tenders due to alleged familial ties to militants or separatists.

The judge found merit in these petitions and quashed the communication from the department. He directed that the petitioners be permitted to participate in the tendering process.

The court noted that the competent authority had not proposed to cancel or refuse to renew the contractors’ registration certificates. The decision to debar them was based solely on the involvement of one or more relatives in anti-national activities in the early 1990s or later.

The Newspaper quoted Justice Kumar as saying that this was not a valid ground to deprive the petitioners of their right to enter contracts with the government for public works.

The Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj had barred several local contractors from the tendering process based on a report from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The CID report indicated that close relatives of the petitioners had been involved in subversive activities. Some of these relatives had been dead for decades.

Justice Kumar ruled that the communication violated the fundamental rights of the petitioners guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and their right to livelihood under Article 21. He emphasized that in a democracy governed by the rule of law, no authority could subvert constitutional provisions.

Referring to the 2010 rehabilitation policy for former militants who crossed into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Justice Kumar stated that the court could not remain a mute spectator to such violations of citizens’ fundamental rights. The policy aimed to facilitate the return of former militants who had given up insurgent activities and sought to reintegrate into mainstream society.

Justice Kumar questioned the rationale behind the communication issued by the then commissioner/secretary, noting that the contractors were barred on the basis of tenuous connections to relatives involved in anti-national activities many years ago. He pointed out that many of these relatives had either died or surrendered to become law-abiding citizens.

The court deemed the matter serious and ordered a copy of the judgment to be placed before the Chief Secretary of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for departmental action against the concerned commissioner/secretary. The Chief Secretary is to submit a report on the action taken within two months.

The case is listed for July 29, 2024. Official figures indicate that over 212 people returned from PoK through Nepal and other routes between 2010 and 2012 under the 2010 rehabilitation policy.

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