Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Ltd. vs MB Power (Madhya Pradesh) Limited 2024 INSC 23 – Electricity Act – Article 226 – Writ Jurisdiction In Contractual Matters – Interpretation Of Statutes

Constitution of India, 1950; Article 226 – When a right is created by a statute, which itself prescribes the remedy or procedure for enforcing the right or liability, resort must be had to that particular statutory remedy before invoking the discretionary remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution of India – Availability of an alternate remedy is not a complete bar in the exercise of the power of judicial review by the High Courts. But, recourse to such a remedy would be permissible only if extraordinary and exceptional circumstances are made out. (Para 95-99)

Constitution of India, 1950; Article 226 – Writ Petitions in contractual matters – The award of a contract, whether it is by a private party or by a public body or the State, is essentially a commercial transaction. In arriving at a commercial decision, considerations which are paramount are commercial considerations – The State can choose its own method to arrive at a decision. It can fix its own terms of invitation to tender and that is not open to judicial scrutiny – The State can enter into negotiations before finally deciding to accept one of the offers made to it – Price need not always be the sole criterion for awarding a contract – State may not accept the offer even though it happens to be the highest or the lowest. However, the State, its corporations, instrumentalities and agencies are bound to adhere to the norms, standards and procedures laid down by them and cannot depart from them arbitrarily. Though that decision is not amenable to judicial review, the court can examine the decision making process and interfere if it is found vitiated by mala fides, unreasonableness and arbitrariness – Even when some defect has been found in the decision making process, the court must exercise its discretionary power under Article 226 with great caution and should exercise it only in furtherance of public interest and not merely on the making out of a legal point. The court should always keep the larger public interest in mind in order to decide whether its intervention is called for or not. Only when it comes to a conclusion that overwhelming public interest requires interference, the court should intervene – Unless the Court finds that the decision-making process is vitiated by arbitrariness, mala fides, irrationality, it will not be permissible for the Court to interfere with the same – Referred to Air India Ltd. v. Cochin International Airport Ltd. (2000) 2 SCC 617=2000 INSC 39 and Tata Cellular v. Union of India (1994) 6 SCC 651 (para 94)= 1994 INSC 283. (Para 102-103)

Constitution of India, 1950; Article 226 – A petition need not be dismissed solely on the ground of delay and laches. However, if petitioner approaches the Court with delay, he has to satisfy the Court about the justification for delay in approaching the Court belatedly. (Para 100)

Electricity Act, 2003 ; Section 86(1)(b) – State Commission has ample power to regulate electricity purchase and procurement process of distribution licensees. It also empowers the State Commission to regulate the matters including the price at which electricity shall be procured from the generating companies, etc. (Para 71)

Electricity Act, 2003 ; Section 63 – Appropriate Commission does not act as a mere post office under Section 63 – Clause 4, in particular, deals with tariff and the appropriate Commission certainly has the jurisdiction to look into whether the tariff determined through the process of bidding accords with Clause 4. (Para 67)

Interpretation of Statutes – The modern approach of interpretation is a pragmatic one, and not pedantic. An interpretation which advances the purpose of the Act and which ensures its smooth and harmonious working must be chosen and the other which leads to absurdity, or confusion, or friction, or contradiction and conflict between its various provisions, or undermines, or tends to defeat or destroy the basic scheme and purpose of the enactment must be eschewed. (para 90)

Words and Phrases – “all”- “any”-  The words “all” or “any” will have to be construed in their context taking into consideration the scheme and purpose of the enactment. What is the meaning which the legislature intended to give to a particular statutory provision has to be decided by the Court on a consideration of the context in which the word(s) appear(s) and in particular, the scheme and object of the legislation. (Para 87)

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