NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has stayed the All India Chess Federation’s (AICF) tender to organise the ‘Indian Chess League’, ‘Online Chess League’ and ‘Chess in School’ after a petition was filed charging the federation with refusal to clearly inform bidders about the nature of contract and the scope of work.
A two-judge bench, comprising justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh, in its order on Wednesday that was uploaded a day later, said: “The petitioner is aggrieved by the clandestine manner in which the respondent Nos. 1 & 2 have sought to tender the services… (It) was wholly cryptic and no terms and conditions of tender were circulated to the prospective and interested bidders.”
The order further said “despite the petitioner raising pertinent questions seeking information, there was no response and those queries were not responded to. We are, therefore, inclined to restraint respondent Nos. 1 & 2 from proceeding to either award the contract in relation to the said tender, or carry out any work in respect thereof, if the tender is awarded, till the next date”.
The next hearing is February 16. The writ petition by bidder Shivalik Poultries named the AICF as respondent number one, AICF honorary secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan as respondent 2, and the Centre through the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports as the third respondent.
AICF was asking for an exorbitant and prohibitive deposit: Petitioner
The Union of India is made a party as the AICF is a Government of India-recognised national sports federation. The New Indian Express was the first newspaper to raise the issue of lack of transparency in the AICF tender process and the bidders’ concern. The petitioner had annexed a copy of the newspaper article to the petition.
The AICF has decided to hold Indian Chess League (ICL) from June 2022 on the lines of the hugely popular Indian Premier League (IPL) organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Like the IPL, the ICL will have multiple franchises owning multiple players from India and abroad. The event is expected to generate thousands of crores of rupees in revenue.
Besides the ICL, the AICF plans to hold two additional events namely ‘Online Chess League’ and ‘Chess in School’. An advertisement was issued last month inviting expression of interest (EOI) from interested parties to organise these events. The lack of details in this advertisement left the prospective bidders puzzled.
The advertisement read as follows: “The All India Chess Federation invites companies to submit an expression of Interest for a proposed Online Chess League and partner in Chess in School programme to take place from 2022. Interested experienced parties having sound financial background may submit their applications with complete details to email: [email protected] by 25th December 2021.”
This advertisement is also available at the AICF website aicf.in.
Apart from the lack of clarity on what a “sound financial background” was, and what “complete details” the bidders were required to provide, prospective bidders found the absence of a request for proposal, which is usually put out to describe the scope of work, financial arrangements and qualifying criteria, surprising.
Neither was any pre-bid meeting held to give details of the project. The clarifications sought by bidders failed to get a satisfactory response from the federation. One of the bidders, therefore, approached the court.
It said that AICF was asking for an exorbitant and prohibitive deposit of Rs 50 lakh without giving a tender document and without even giving most basic details. It said there is no information available at the website, no information available in advertisement, and nothing is being disclosed by the AICF.
It said “despite numerous communications by the Petitioner, the Respondent No. 1 is not disclosing any (a) tender document, (b) what specific rights are being put to bid under the tender, what is the scope and what duration of rights are being put to bid (c) how the Online Chess League and Partner in Chess Program is planned to be conducted (d) what costs are to be borne by the successful bidder and what costs would be borne by the Respondent No. 1 (e) there is no request for proposal (f) the scope, the nature and the duration of rights being awarded in the tender; (g) the procedure adopted for biddings and (h) qualification of tender”.
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