Finish Meluri roads by June 30, Gauhati High Court tells contractor

Finish Meluri roads by June 30, Gauhati High Court tells contractor

The Gauhati High Court Kohima Bench has delivered a stern ultimatum to the contractor in charge of the Meluri road projects, ordering the completion of construction works by June 30, 2024. Failure to meet this deadline could result in contempt of court charges, as stated in the order issued by the Division Bench, headed by Chief Justice Vijay Bishnoi and LS Jamir, on June 14.

The road construction project, which aims to connect Lephori to Molhe in Phek district, was initially sanctioned in 2011. M/S Rhino Construction and Agency was awarded the contract, and work began in 2018 with a two-year completion timeline. However, despite the passage of several years and significant funding, the project remains unfinished.

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The Court’s intervention was prompted by a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed on November 11, 2020, which highlighted substantial delays and financial irregularities. The PIL claimed that Rs 30 crore was sanctioned in 2014 for the road construction, and a completion certificate was issued on January 1, 2014, even though the work was incomplete. Additional funds totalling Rs 15 crore were allocated in 2017 and 2018, yet progress remained minimal.

Aerial View of Meluri Town
Aerial view of Meluri Town

In response to the allegations, the Court, on February 9, 2024, ordered the State respondents to refrain from making any payments to the contractor without its consent. The contractor was given until May 31 to finish the project. On June 6, the contractor submitted an interlocutory application (IA) requesting a 15-day extension, assuring the Court that work was progressing at full speed.

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Considering the contractor’s counsel’s assurance, the Bench extended the deadline to June 30, emphasising that failure to complete the construction by this date would render the contractor liable for contempt of court. The matter is scheduled for further hearing on July 3 to assess progress and compliance with the Court’s order.

The Nagaland Government has taken disciplinary action against a PWD (Roads & Bridges) engineer accused of issuing a false completion certificate for the roads. On April 28, 2023, the Government informed the Court of the action taken, which involved withholding the engineer’s annual increment for one year. Chief Justice Bishnoi expressed surprise at the leniency of the punishment, remarking sarcastically, “Great.”

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The High Court’s directive underscores the gravity of the situation surrounding the Meluri road projects, which have been plagued by prolonged delays and financial mismanagement. The contractor now faces a critical deadline to complete their obligations and avoid contempt of court charges. The upcoming hearing on July 3 will be crucial in determining the project’s status and the contractor’s compliance with the Court’s order.

The completion of the Meluri road projects is of utmost importance to the people of Phek district, who have been eagerly awaiting the improved connectivity and infrastructure development. The Court’s intervention serves as a reminder that delays and mismanagement in public projects will not be tolerated, and those responsible will be held accountable for their actions.

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As the June 30 deadline approaches, all eyes will be on the contractor to see if they can rise to the challenge and complete the long-overdue road construction. The outcome of this case will not only impact the lives of those in Phek district but also set a precedent for future public infrastructure projects in the region.

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