2015(1) ALL MR 33
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY (AURANGABAD BENCH)

B.P. DHARMADHIKARI AND A.M. BADAR, JJ.

Vilas s/o. Rambhau Chaudhari Vs. Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. & Anr.

Writ Petition No. 9467 of 2014,Writ Petition No. 9511 of 2014

11th December, 2014

Petitioner Counsel: Mr. R.N. DHORDE, Mr. P.S. DIGHE, Mr. V.R. DHORDE
Respondent Counsel: Smt. ANJALI DUBE (VAJPAYEE)

(A) Constitution of India, Art.226 - LPG distributorship - Eligibility condition as applicants having lease for minimum 15 years as on last date of submission of application - Cannot be viewed as a collateral or non-essential condition - Person who has sometime in past entered into a registered lease for 15 years - Cannot contend to have got registered lease agreement for 15 years - Merely possessing an agreement is not sufficient to meet prescribed eligibility norm. (Paras 22, 23)

(B) Constitution of India, Art.226 - LPG distributorship - Deficiencies in application, whether includes eligibility norms - Cl. 8.5 of the advertisement permitting deficiencies to be removed - Held, eligibility norm of having a registered lease deed for minimum 15 years, as on last date for submission of application, cannot be construed as 'deficiency' - Opportunity in terms of Cl. 8.5 cannot be extended. (Para 29)

(C) Constitution of India, Art.226 - LPG distributorship - Application for - Rejection on ground relating to affidavit submitted by applicant - Clause 6.1 of the guidelines for selection states about requirement of a no objection certificate in form of a notarized affidavit from other owner of land, in case land owned by two or more owners - Petitioner applicant has pointed out in his affidavit his sole ownership - Nothing on record to show that land offered by petitioner was not available exclusively to him and it has joint holders - Therefore, rejection of application on said ground, held, unsustainable. (Para 11)

Cases Cited:
Girnar Traders Vs. State of Maharashtra & others, 2007 ALL SCR 2232 =2007(7) SCC 555 [Para 8,19]
Rashmi Metalinks Limited & another Vs. Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority & others, 2013 ALL SCR 3263 =2013 (10) SCC 95 [Para 15,20,28]


JUDGMENT

B. P. DHARMADHIKARI, J. :- Both these petitions challenge the rejection of offers submitted by respective petitioners to the respondents / Oil Company, in pursuance of the public invitation in various newspapers in September 2013. This advertisement was published in 'Daily Lokmat' on 29th September 2013, and last date for submitting the application was 29-10- 2013. As the petitioners have found not eligible and the grounds are common, we have heard both the matters together, by issuing Rule and making it returnable forthwith with consent of parties.

2. The learned Senior Adv. Mr. R.N. Dhorde with Adv. Mr. P.S. Dighe argued the matter for the petitioner in Writ Petition No. 9467 of 2014, while Adv. Mr. A.V. Patil Indrale advanced the arguments on behalf of other petitioner. Adv. Smt. Anjali Dube (Vajpayee) appeared for the concerned Oil Company in both the matters. The learned ASGI Mr. S.B. Deshpande has filed appearance for respondent no.1 - Union of India, in Writ Petition No. 9511 of 2014.

3. The fact, that both the petitioners filed their applications before last date, is not in dispute. Claim of petitioner Vilas Chaudhari in W.P. No. 9467/2014, has not been entertained on the ground that he offered a showroom land held on registered lease agreement for 15 years from 1-10-2013, while requirement was to have the same for minimum 15 years from last date of submission of application i.e. 29-10-2013. The petitioner thereafter submitted a representation on 22-7-2014 and pointed out that necessary correction deed has been executed between parties. He also submitted that document. The said representation has been rejected on 7th October 2014, maintaining the earlier stance.

4. Other petitioner, namely, Ramakant Magar, challenges order dated 19-8-2014. He has been informed that he did not have a registered lease agreement for godown and showroom, for minimum 15 years as on 29-10-2013. The Oil Company has pointed out that as per stipulation in advertisement, lease deed needed to be valid up to 28-10-2028, and his agreement was valid only up to 24-10-2028. Other reason given is, affidavit in relation to godown and showroom was not executed by landlord as required by Appendix IV.

5. Writ Petition No. 9467/2014 has been amended as per court orders dated 28-10-2014, to incorporate a challenge that the petitioner ought to have been given an opportunity to cure the deficiency about shortfall in lease duration.

6. Learned Sr. Adv. Mr. Dhorde has invited attention to relevant clauses in the advertisement, to urge that the stipulation in Clause 9 of the advertisement required application to be submitted by 29-10-2013 and there was no condition which required the lease to continue for a period of 15 years beyond said date. He further submits, that the petitioner already had a lease deed in his favour duly registered in accordance with law, on 15-10-2013. The application was submitted by said petitioner - Vilas Chaudhari on 28-10-2013 along with said lease deed and hence the document ought to have been accepted as proper and valid. He submits, that reason for rejection of that lease is unsustainable. It is further submitted, that the petitioner received a letter dated 17-7-2014, informing him about said deficiency. But before that, i.e. on 30th June 2014 itself, the correction deed was executed and duration of lease deed was mentioned from 29-10-2013 to 28-10-2028. Thus, the petitioner had supplied a lease deed which was valid for a period of 15 years when computed from the last date of submission of application. The petitioner pointed out all these facts in his representation dated 22-7-2014. Rejection of that representation vide later communication dated 7-10-2014, is unsustainable. He further contends that interpretation of Clause 6.1(viii) by the respondents and calling upon petitioner to show a lease beyond period of 15 years, from 29-10-2013, is incorrect and unsustainable.

7. The learned Sr. Adv. has relied upon the common order passed on 9th October 2014 by Division Bench of this Court, in Writ Petition No. 2812/2014 and other connected matters, at Nagpur. He submits, that the said Division Bench has correctly noticed confusion and also provisions in Clause 8.5 of the guidelines. He also states that though a contrary view has been taken earlier on 10th June 2014, by a Division Bench of this Court in Writ Petition No. 5020/2014, at Bombay, Division Bench at Nagpur rightly found that Clause 8.5 of said guidelines was not pressed into service at Bombay. He further states, that at Aurangabad, the Division Bench has while deciding Writ Petition No. 5223/2014, on 27th June 2014, and Writ Petition No. 7094/2014, on 29th September 2014, has followed the Bombay view and had no occasion to consider Clause 8.5. Bombay view has been questioned before Hon'ble Apex Court, in S.L.P. (Civil) No. 20708/2014, and on 6th August 2014, the Hon'ble Apex Court has granted interim stay in the matter.

8. Adv. Dhorde has also relied upon judgment of Hon'ble Apex Court, in the case of Girnar Traders Vs. State of Maharashtra & others, reported in 2007 (7) SCC 555 : [2007 ALL SCR 2232], particularly paragraphs 55 and 56 thereof, to substantiate his contentions. He submits, that the opportunity to submit correct document needed to be extended in the present facts and not doing so is violative of Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.

9. Adv. Mr. Patil Indrale adopts the arguments of learned Sr. Advocate, in so far as Writ Petition filed by Ramakant Magar is concerned. He further submits, that the other ground given in the impugned order dated 19th August 2014, to reject the application of Ramakant Magar is equally erroneous. According to him, the brochure issued by Oil Company clearly shows that affidavit is required only when the land offered is owned jointly and not otherwise. He states that as the land offered by the petitioner was not held jointly or by joint family, the affidavit submitted by the petitioner cannot be stated to be incorrect and unacceptable. He has, in addition, also relied upon a Division Bench judgment delivered at Patna, in L.P.A. No. 1159/2011, on 16-12-2011, to urge that opportunity, as sought for, needed to be granted.

10. Adv. Smt. Dube (Vajpayee) on behalf of the respondent - Oil Company has urged that the matter pertains to domain of contract and as terms and conditions are very clear, the parties cannot seek any dilution of or relaxation from the same. The eligibility norms cannot be allowed to be defeated and as both the petitioners were not eligible, they could not have submitted the applications. She further submits, that the deficiencies spoken of, in Clause 8.5, cannot be confused with the eligibility norms. She has taken us through various clauses of "August 2013 brochure", to substantiate her submission.

11. The ground in relation to affidavit of land owner mentioned in communication dated 19th August 2014, forming subject matter of challenge in Writ Petition filed by Ramakant Magar can be dealt with first. Perusal of Clause No. 6.1 of the guidelines for selection reveal that at page 7 of said book of guidelines, with reference to Sub-Clauses (vii) and (viii) of this Clause 6.1, there is a clarification. The first part of clarification points out the meaning of word 'own'. Paragraph thereafter is regarding the land jointly owned by applicants. It states that if such land is jointly owned and share of land in the name of applicant meets the requirement of land including dimensions required, that land for godown / showroom also qualifies for examining eligibility as own land, subject to submission of no objection certificate in the form of a notarized affidavit from its other owners. The proforma of this notarized affidavit is given in Appendix IV. It specifically stipulates that all the joint owners / joint lessees of land except the applicant have to submit their individual affidavit. Thus, this affidavit is essential only when it is shown that land offered does not belong exclusively to Ramakant and some other persons also have interest in or title to it. Petitioner - Ramakant in his affidavit has pointed out this position & his sole ownership. However, the same appears not to have been looked into. There is nothing on record to show that land offered by petitioner was not available exclusively to him and there are any joint holders. The rejection of his application on the said ground, therefore, is unsustainable.

12. The later ground of not holding a lease for 15 years, as on the last date of submission of application, needs to be considered. The facts noted supra show, that Ramakant had a lease which fell short just by four days, while Vilas had a lease which expired about 28 days before the prescribed date. Vilas had on 30th June 2014, also got a deed of rectification which, according to him, cured this lacuna.

13. To understand nature of this requirement, it is essential to find out the relevant stipulations contained in procedure on guidelines for selection of regular LPG Distributors. Parties do not dispute that said brochure published in August 2013, is relevant for present consideration. Clause 5 is about mode of selection and Clause 6 prescribes eligibility criteria for individual applicants. Clause 6.1 prescribes eligibility for those who apply as an individual. While prescribing the minimum educational qualifications, the guideline 6.1(ii) stipulates that it has to be possessed 'as on the date of application'. Sub-Clause (iii) prescribing age also corelates it with very same date i.e. 'as on the date of application'. Bar on family member of an employee of Oil Marketing Company is also to be read with reference to same date. Sub-Clause (vii) is about owning a plot of land of dimensions mentioned therein and there, the date stipulated is last date for submission of application. We find it appropriate to reproduce the relevant part :-

"Should own as on the last date for submission of application as specified in the advertisement or corrigendum (if any) ......"

Reference to this date is again appearing in last paragraph of said Sub- Clause when case of applicant having more than one suitable plots is taken into consideration. Sub-Clause (viii) is about owning a suitable shop where again reference is to last date and very same words i.e. 'as on the last date for submission of application as specified in the advertisement or corrigencum (if any)' appear.

14. Thereafter, the concept of owning has been explained and relevant part reads thus :

" 'Own' means having ownership title of the property or registered lease agreement for minimum 15 years in the name of applicant / family member (as defined in multiple distributorship norm of eligibility criteria) as on the last date for submission of application as specified in the advertisement or corrigendum (if any). In case of ownership / coownership by family members(s) as given above, consent in the form of a Notarized Affidavit from the family members(s) will be required."

Thus, the brochure or guidelines very spedifically lay down that registered lease agreement has to be for minimum 15 years as on the last date for submission of application. The selection of particular number of years or its relevance has not been assailed before this court. Similarly, selection of point of time to decide eligibillity or wisdom behind it i.e. validity of norm of "last date for submission of application", is again not in challenge. The fact, that advertisement needed to be understood, and application form needed to be filled in, as stipulated in the brochure, is also not in dispute. In fact, the form of application for individual applicant is at Appendix-I at page 24 of the brochure. Thus, petitioners got this brochure when they obtained the applications. Advertisement also refers to the same expressly. None of the petitioners have argued that they were not aware of this stipulation.

15. The matter pertains to domain of contract and the stipulation of having lease agreement for minimum 15 years, as on last date, is expressly stipulated as an eligibility criterion. The learned Counsel have not even urged that said condition is not an essential condition but colateral one. There is no contention that petitioners have substantialy complied with it. In Rashmi Metaliks Ltd. v. Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, (2013) 10 SCC 95 : [2013 ALL SCR 3263], at page 101, Hon. Apex Court points out the limited scope available for intervention in such matters. Paragraph 9 therein reads :-

"9. Tata Cellular9 states thus: (SCC pp. 677-78, para 77)

"77. The duty of the court is to confine itself to the question of legality. Its concern should be:

(1) Whether a decision-making authority exceeded its powers?

(2) committed an error of law,

(3) committed a breach of the rules of natural justice,

(4) reached a decision which no reasonable tribunal would have reached or,

(5) abused its powers.

Therefore, it is not for the court to determine whether a particular policy or particular decision taken in the fulfilment of that policy is fair. It is only concerned with the manner in which those decisions have been taken. The extent of the duty to act fairly will vary from case to case. Shortly put, the grounds upon which an administrative action is subject to control by judicial review can be classified as under:

(i) Illegality: This means the decision-maker must understand correctly the law that regulates his decision-making power and must give effect to it.

(ii) Irrationality, namely, Wednesbury11 unreasonableness.

(iii) Procedural impropriety.

The above are only the broad grounds but it does not rule out addition of further grounds in course of time. As a matter of fact, in R. v. Secy. of State for the Home Deptt., ex p Brind12, Lord Diplock refers specifically to one development, namely, the possible recognition of the principle of proportionality.‡ In all these cases the test to be adopted is that the court should, 'consider whether something has gone wrong of a nature and degree which requires its intervention'."

Thus, we have to keep in mind the above principles.

16. Clause (viii) of the brochure stipulates that individual who fulfills the eligibility criteria, can submit application for LPG Distributorship in format given in Appendix-I. This, therefore, is again in the context of eligibility criteria stipulated in Clause 6.1 supra and , reference is to Sub-Clauses (vii) and (viii). Hence, only an individual who satisfies the said eligibility can only submit application. Impliedly, those who do not meet said requirement cannot apply. Clause 8.5 is about procedure for receipt of application. Said clause reads as under :-

"Procedure for Receipt of Application - Application would be received in sealed envelope only. After application is received, serial number would be put on the envelope and also recorded in a 'Register'. Acknowledgement for applications received will be sent to the applicants. In case deficiencies are found in the application, a letter would be sent to the applicant to rectify the deficiencies within a specified period of time."

Clause 9 thereafter, is about 'procedure for draw'.

17. This scheme, when viewed, does not show a stage at which application submitted by individual applicant can be rejected before stage of Clause 8.5. The applications are to be received in sealed envelope only, that too from eligible candidates and acknowledgment is issued to applicant of having received such application after receipt of such an envelope. The stage at which envelopes will be opened, or procedure for opening is not appearing in Clause 8.5, or anywhere else. But then, there is no challenge raised before this court in that connection.

18. The opportunity to rectify deficiencies within specified period of time is contemplated in Clause 8.5. It is obvious, that deficiencies can come to light only after the envelope is opened. Envelope is to be submitted by an individual who fulfills the eligibility criteria. Thus, one who does not fulfill said criteria, cannot submit that envelope. The word 'deficiencies', therefore, will have to be understood as used in contrast with 'eligibility criteria'. Not possessing any of eligibility criterion, therefore, cannot be allowed to be cured or amended by taking recourse to Clause 8.5.

19. We have considered the judgment of the Hon'ble Apex Court, in the case of Girnar Traders Vs. State of Maharashtra & others [2007 ALL SCR 2232] (supra), cited by the learned Senior Advocate, and perused paragraphs 55 and 56 therein. The Hon'ble Larger Bench of Apex Court has considered the scheme of Section 127 of the Maharashtra Regional & Town Planning Act, 1966, stipulation of time within which notice for acquisition can be given and purpose of providing such time limit in the scheme of enactment. We are unable to connect said precedent with present facts.

20. In so far as the judgment in the case of Rashmi Metalinks Limited & another Vs. Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority & others, reported at 2013 (10) SCC 95 : [2013 ALL SCR 3263], is concerned, the Hon'ble Apex Court has considered the question of a term in tender i.e. when it can be called as essential term. In paragraph 10.5, the Hon'ble Apex Court has observed thus :-

"This analysis of the cited case law shows that there is little or no advantage to be gained from the manner in which the Court has responded to the factual matrix as other courts may legitimately place emphasis on seemingly similar facts to arrive at a different conclusion. But the ratio decidendi has to be adhered to. The counsel must therefore exhibit circumspection in the number of cases they cite. The three-Judge Bench in Tata Cellular Vs. Union of India (1994) 6 SCC 651, is more than sufficient to adumbrate the law pertaining to tenders; the later decision of the coordinate Bench in Siemens Public Communication Networks (P) Ltd. Vs. Union of India (2008) 16 SCC 215, is in the nature of annals of previous decisions on the point. "

In facts before it, the Hon'ble Apex Court has in paragraph 18 noted that the income tax return would have assumed the character of an essential term if one of the qualifications was either the gross income or the net income on which tax was attracted. It is found that it is indicative of the commercial standing and reliability of the tendering entity. As such stipulation was absent, mere requirement of filing latest income tax return has been held to be a collateral term by the Hon'ble Apex Court. The Hon'ble Court, therefore, found that Tendering Authority ought to have given an opportunity to tenderer to make amounts for its failure to submit latest income tax return along with its bid by bringing the discrepancy to its notice. The Hon'ble Apex Court also observes, that if after such opportunity, tenderer fails to rectify the error, position will be different.

21. Here, the reference to point of time, in brochure has been noted by us supra. While prescribing eligibility criteria in relation to education qualification, age or disqualification being a member of a family, the requirement has been corelated with date of application. While specifying ownership of a land, it has been connected to the last date for submission of application. This change in date for examination of eligibility is not argued to be either arbitrary or otherwise unsustainable before us. Similarly, when concept of "owning" is explained, the requirement is of lease agreement for minimum 15 years. This word 'minimum' also becomes significant. Intention behind specifying two different dates while undertaking scrutiny or relevance of last date presribed for submission of application emphasized by word "minimum" establish that duration of lease held as on last date is an essential condition.

22. The requirement of having registered lease agreement for minimum 15 years has been corelated to 'as on the last date for submission of application'. Thus, having a registered lease agreement for minimum 15 years, is the qualification which individual must possess on the last date for submission of application i.e. 29-10-2013, in the present facts. Both the petitioners do not satisfy this. The brochure mandates having lease for minimum 15 years on 29-10-2013 and this is an eligibility condition. It cannot be viewed here, as a collateral or non-essential condition. It is an essential term of the tender.

23. Having a registered lease for minimum 15 years, as on 29-10- 2013, itself implies that lease must be valid for 15 years next from the said last date. A person who has sometime in the past entered into a registered lease and obtained it for a period of 15 years from the date of execution thereof in his favour cannot contend that he has got a registered lease agreement for 15 years. Hypothetically, a person who has entered into a registered lease agreement, for a period of 15 years, on 31st October 1998, can legitimately urge that he has an agreement of 15 years of lease with him on 29-10-2013. Merely possessing an agreement is not sufficient to meet the eligibility norm as prescribed by Oil Company in the present matter. The stipulation along with its clarification makes it clear that lease agreement has to be for a duration of minimum 15 years next, and that period of 15 years has to be calculated after the last date i.e. 29-10-2013. Considering the purpose for which advertisement is issued and the nature of business for which petitioners aspire, it is abundantly clear that the minimum period of 15 years sought for by Oil Company cannot be said to be irrelevant & unfair. The Oil Company is free to decide said period and terms and conditions of contract. Unless and until this selection of period is shown to be perverse or arbitrary, or with any oblique motive, the same cannot be judicially reviewed by this court. This unambigious stipulation in the advertisement / brochure document, therefore, needs to be honoured.

24. Clause 8.5 mentioned supra needs to be understood in this background. Deficiency which can be cured after envelope submitted by applicants is opened, is therefore, not in relation to the eligibility norm. Clause 8.5 only permits inadvertant errors to be rectified or corrected. Such an inadvertent error may be in relation to submission of a demand draft of a Co-operative Bank instead of demand draft of a Nationalized Bank, substitution of a residence certificate already on record by allowing production of a certificate issued by competent authority in proper format, etc. Thus eligibility already possesed before the prescribed date or last date, may be allowed to be demonstrated by supplying its proof. But such a provision can not be used to bring on record the fact that eligibility norm not met with till the relevant date, has been subsequently satisfied. Thus, it is not an opportunity extended to acquire the eligibility after the relevant date. If arguments of the petitioners are accepted, the logic behind prescribing the last date will itself be frustrated & lead to uncertainity or arbitrariness.

25. The judgment delivered by Hon'ble Division Bench of Patna High Court in L.P.A. No. 1159/2009, considers the error committed in affidavit by writ petitioner. Instead of word 'U;k;ky;' (Court) in his affidavit, he mentioned the word 'dk;Zky;' (Office) in his affidavit. He rectified the same and a fresh affidavit was filed in proper format before applications were considered for final selection. His application was not considered and he filed Writ Petition before learned Single Judge. The learned Single Judge held that the defence raised by Oil Company was hypertechnical. The Division Bench found that Oil Company, being State within meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution, was supposed to act fairly, reasonably and uniformly. To remain objective, it had to adhere to standards mentioned in the advertisement. As the application submitted by writ petitioner was not in conformity with said stipulation in advertisement, the Division Bench of Patna High Court found appeal preferred by Oil Company justified and its appeal came to be allowed.

26. The Division Bench of this Court at Bombay, while deciding Writ Petition No. 5020/2014, on 10th June 2014, considered a lease which was for a period of 15 years from 24th October 2013. Very same advertisement and very same clause has been looked into and the lease period was found short by 5 days for completing the period of 15 years. Though Clause 8.5 permitting deficiencies to be removed, has not been looked into, the contention of said petitioner at Bombay, that he was willing to extend the period of lease by 5 days, has been evaluated and negated. The Division Bench at Aurangabad, while deciding Writ Petition No. 5223/2014 and three other matters, has considered same clause and requirement of 15 years with reference to last date of submission of application and rejected the petitions. on 29th September 2014, for the same reasons, four other Writ Petitions were dismissed in motion hearing. Though order dated 27th June 2014 does not make reference to Clause No. 8.5 of the brochure, it takes note of the judgment delivered at Bombay in Writ Petition No. 5020 of 2014. The later order dated 29th September 2014, mentions the Bombay order and also considers Clause 8.5. It appears that, at Aurangabad, Writ Petition No. 4640/2014 was also dismissed on 11-6- 2014.

27. At Nagpur, Division Bench, on 10-10-2014, considered a challenge in Writ Petition No. 282 of 2014. That Division Bench found that the petitioner before it, should have furnished the document of title of members of his family unit or a lease deed for a period of 15 years in his name and hence, rejection of his offer by Oil Company was found correct. The Division Bench also looked into Clause 8.5 of the guidelines and held that only where there was any minor technical defect in the application, it could have been allowed to be corrected. Very same Bench has, a day earlier, i.e. on 9th October 2014, allowed about 21 Writ Petitions i.e. Writ Petition No. 2812/2014 with connected matters. There the challenge as is being looked into by us, has been considered in the background of Clause 8.5. Oil Company had rejected the applications of those petitioners on the ground that though lease period was required to be of 15 years, as on last date of submission of application; in all cases, it was short by few days. The shortfall was between one day to 7 days. The Division Bench at Nagpur has noted that the petitioners before it had entered into lease deeds with the owners of the property for a period of 15 years, either on the last date of submission of application on 29-10-2013 or within a period of 7 days preceding the date of filing of the application. At page 22, the Division Bench has recorded its finding in the background of guidelines in force till year 2012. Old guidelines did not provide for submission of a lease deed for a period of 15 years from the last date for submission of application. It appears that the Oil Companies till then required only a lease deed for a period of 15 years. Said Division Bench then found that the stipulation in 2013 guidelines resulted in some confusion. It has mentioned that this confusion resulted in filing of petitions before various High Courts in the country.

28. The parties before this Court have not pointed out the judgments delivered by other High Courts on said Clause. The Division Bench at Nagpur has mentioned some internal communications between offices of Oil Companies and looking to the confusion in the mind of office bearers of Oil Company, it felt that the petitioners needed to be given an opportunity to produce the correction deed by invoking Clause 8.5 of the guidelines of 2013. No such communications revealing any confusion are pointed out to us. The Division Bench was not required to consider whether 'deficiencies' contemplated in Clause 8.5 also included & extended to the eligibility norms. The judgment of Hon'ble Apex Court, in the case of Rashmi Metalinks Limited & another [2013 ALL SCR 3263] (supra) was also not pressed into service before said Bench.

29. In the light of arguments advanced before us, we find that the eligibility norm of having a registered lease deed for minimum 15 years, 'as on the last date for submission of application', cannot be construed as 'deficiency', and as it is essential term, an opportunity in terms of Clause 8.5 cannot be extended.

30. In this situation, rejection of application of both the petitioners, on the ground that they have failed to satisfy eligibility norm, cannot be faulted with.

31. Both the Writ Petitions are accordingly dismissed. Rule discharged. No costs.

32. At this stage, the learned Counsel appearing for petitioner in Writ Petition No. 9467 of 2014, states that arrangement continued till today, because of statement made by respondent nos.1 and 2, should be continued further for a period of four weeks. Request is being opposed by the respondents.

33. However, in the interest of justice, we continue the position prevailing today, for a period of four weeks from today. The interim direction shall cease to operate automatically thereafter.

Petitions dismissed.