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Islamabad High Court (IHC) has issued notice to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to file report on the grant of license of track and trace system for tobacco products to the M/s Radio & Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC).

It is learnt that the IHC has also directed the FBR to submit its comments prior to next date of hearing i.e. December 12, 2019.

According to the IHC order, the notice has been issued to FBR and until the next date of hearing, status-quo is directed to be maintained. The IHC order said that the petitioner company assailed the order dated 29.10.2019, whereby the Federal Board of Revenue (respondent No.1) granted a license to the NRTC (respondent No.8) at a price of Rs.731 per 1,000 stamps for a period of five years to establish, maintain and operate the whole process/system of Track and Trace System for tobacco products in Pakistan subject to terms and conditions as stipulated in Licensing Rules, 2019, Invitation for Licensing (IFL) and other relevant laws.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner was one of the bidders, who participated in the competitive process initiated by FBR for the grant of the said license; that after the pre-qualification process, the bids were submitted by the prequalified bidders; that respondent No.8 (NRTC) had offered a price of Rs. 731 with unit of 1,000 stamps, whereas the petitioner had offered a price of Rs 868.36 with unit of 1,000 stamps; that after the bids were evaluated by the Licensing Committee constituted by the FBR.

The petitioner said that the evaluation report was submitted that as per the observations of the Licensing Committee, NRTC had violated Annex-6 of the Invitation for Licensing (IFL) by submitting its bid for 01 stamp instead of 1,000 stamps; that it was also observed that if respondent No. 8 did not agree to its bid of Rs 731 per 1000 stamps, the next lowest responsive bidder may be awarded the license; that the next lowest bidder was the petitioner, and who on the basis of the evaluation report, acquired a right of legitimate expectation to be granted the license; that against the said observations in the Evaluation Report, NRTC submitted a grievance petition before the Grievance Redressal Committee (GRC); that the GRC report dated 13.11.2019 shows that during the pendency of the proceedings before the GRC, the matter was referred to the Ministry of Law & Justice Division vide respondent No. 1's letter dated 28.10.2019; that paragraph 6 of the said report dated 13.11.2019 shows that on 28.10.2019, the Ministry of Law & Justice Division has rendered its opinion which was subsequently reviewed on the same very day in favor of NRTC that the Ministry of Law & Justice Division's view was that NRTC could amend its bid so that it could quote Rs 0.731 per stamp instead of 1000 stamps, and the error in its bid by quoting Rs 0.731 for 1,000 stamps, was the result of a bona-fide mistake; that it was also opined that a bidder can amend its bid by giving clarification in terms of Rule 31 of the Public Procurement Rules, 2002 as well as Section 150 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

The counsel for the petitioner further submitted that the correction in NRTC's bid amounts to an undue importance and has resulted in the destruction of the petitioner's vested rights since it had quoted next lowest bid; that once a bid has been submitted, no bidder could be given undue advantage by permitting it to amend its bid and quote the rate different from the one quoted in its original bid; and that the report of the GRC is in stark violation of the law laid down in the judgment dated 16.10.2019 passed by this court in writ petition No. 3094/2018 in the case titled Ms Jemalto Middle East FZ-LCC vs Federation of Pakistan and others.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019