ISLAMABAD  - The Islamabad High Court Wednesday dismissed the petition moved against the process of awarding a contract to a private firm for the provision of 20 million smart cards to National Data and Registration Authority (NADRA).

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui announced the verdict in a petition filed by a Karachi-based firm SCT Group, which raised objections over the tender process alleging that it was discriminatory and aimed at favouring specific bidders. The petitioner prayed in its petition that procurement process may be declared as discriminatory, arbitrary, unlawful, illegal and ultra-vires of the ordinance and rules. In the judgement, Justice Siddiqui wrote that counsel for answering respondents contended that all rules and regulations were followed in full letter and spirit. No “instant procurement” was carried out in the procurement of smart cards. Their counsel further added that NADRA has specified a clear and unambiguous manner and method of submission and receipt the bids in accordance with Rule 22 of the Public Procurement Rules 2004 and accordingly in this way NADRA followed the international best practice to evaluate technical and financial bids.

Therefore, he prayed the court that the petition may be dismissed being without merit and substance. In the verdict, the judge observed that in this matter, the petitioner has been unable to convince this court regarding his locus standi and bonda fide representation to be considered as an aggrieved person as he never submitted his bid nor participated in the bidding process. “Suffice it to say that this matter pertaining to a factual controversy necessitating recording of evidence which exercise is beyond the mandate of this court,” observed Justice Shaukat Aziz. He added, “Therefore, without commenting and probing into the innate factual controversy surrounding the matter, I conclude that there has been no blatant irregularity or misdemeanour for which I could be inclined to trample and obliterate the entire process of procurement.” Earlier, during the hearing of the petition, a counsel for NADRA, Afnan Karim Kundi advocate, had appeared before the court to argue the case and alleged that some blue-eyed persons of the former PPP government had been interested in this mega project and that’s why some people filed such petitions against the tender of (Special NADRA Identity Card) Smart Card project.

He further told the court that NADRA has been planning to replace the 95 million Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) and the petition challenging the tender process for the smart card is based on mala-fide intentions. Kundi informed the court that NADRA last year had launched the Smart Cards a 3rd Generation Chip-based identity document that is built according to international standards and requirements.

He told that the card has over 36 physical security features and uses latest encryption codes making it the safest card in the world.

On June 4, the IHC bench had issued stay orders after one of the Karachi based bidders for this project, SCT group raised objections over the tender process. The petitioner SCT group cited Interior Ministry, NADRA and four bidders as respondents and maintained before the court that NADRA’s ‘request for proposal’ (RFP) regarding the above said tender was biased, non-transparent, unascertainable, incomplete, including the requirements of proprietary, designed to favour particular parties that is in violation of Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) Ordinance 2002 and Public Procurement Rules 2004.

The counsel for petitioner had told the court that the Interior Ministry and director procurement NADRA on March 07, 2013 floated a tender for the procurement of two smart cards personalization machines and 30million polycarbonate based smart ID cards.  He added that the respondents issued a corrigendum on March 19, 2013 whereby the quantity of Smart cards was reduced from 30 million to 20 million.

Thereafter, the respondents issued an RFP on March 21, which was not only incomplete but it was also non-transparent and according to the petitioner was biased and mala-fide.

However, the counsel for NADRA argued before the court that the matter may be decided as early as it may be possible because unnecessary delay in awarding contract for the production of smart card would create a huge backlog like the one the passport office experienced a few months ago.

He also contended that the petitioner company was not aggrieved party as neither had it submitted the bid nor it had participated in the bidding process and it also failed to point out any violation of law in the tender process.

On the other hand, the petitioner company stated that this whole process is non-transparent and discriminatory. It requested the court that it may direct the respondents to halt the said tendering process.

However, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui dismissed the petition after hearing the arguments of both the sides.