Gandhinagar, Dec 9 (IANS) Assailing the FIR lodged against them by the Kumbh Mela administration for allegedly trying to defraud the Uttar Pradesh government of Rs 109.85 crore by submitting forged bills, Gujarat-based event management company, Lallooji and Sons, has described this move as “illegal” and “aimed at scuttling the legal process for recovery of outstanding dues”.
The firm says that there was no wrongdoing committed on their part, and it was determined to clear its name.
The Kumbh Mela administration had entered into a contract with Lallooji & Sons, allotting them major works of setting of tents, and supply of furniture for the event at Allahabad in 2019. The Kumbh Mela in 2019 was the largest ever event in terms of temporary camping ever executed in the country.
According to Lallooji & Sons, the firm executed all the works as per the agreement and to the satisfaction of their clients.
“However, the dispute arose when Lallooji & Sons submitted bills amounting to Rs 155 crore for the works executed. The Mela administration made illegal deductions in the bills, and arrived at a figure of Rs 85 crore as the due amount. The administration did not release the payments, and kept pressurising us to accept the revised amount,” said Himanshu Agarwal, a partner in Lallooji & Sons.
For a long time, there was no resolution on this matter, which forced Lallooji & Sons to approach the Allahabad High Court in December 2019 for the release of the dues. The court then ordered the Mela administration to release the payment which they were claiming to be owed by the firm.
“The administration released the amount of Rs 85 crore following the high court’s order on March 31, 2020, a full year after the Kumbh Mela had ended,” said Agarwal.
But for the remaining amount, the firm again moved the Allahabad High Court for appointment of an arbitrator after the Mela administration refused to do so in violation of their agreement.
The court appointed Justice D.P.S. Chouhan, the former Chief Justice of MP High Court, as the arbitrator for the dispute.
Lallooji & Sons filed a claim statement with the arbitrator, who directed the administration to submit its reply within a month. However, the Mela administration did not do so and instead sought two more months time to file its reply.
“December 5, was the date fixed by the arbitrator as the next date for hearing. But instead, the Mela administration issued an office order on December 3 alleging fraud of Rs 109 crore by us, and debarring us from government contracts for five years. This was just to scuttle the arbitration process,” Agarwal added.
The Mela administration thereafter filed an FIR against Lallooji & Sons and key personnel for allegedly trying to defraud the Uttar Pradesh government of Rs 109.85 crore by submitting forged bills for goods provided during Kumbh 2019.
On December 5, the date of submitting its reply to the arbitrator, the Mela administration moved an application in the Allahabad High Court under section 16/2 of The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, stating that the arbitrator was incompetent to adjudicate the matter and seeking his termination.
Agarwal said: “The intention of the administration is very clear. It wants to scuttle the arbitration process by any means. The illegal order to debar us and filing of the mala fide FIR are to harass us, and to force us to accept the illegal decision of the administration. However, we are certain that no wrongdoing has been committed on our part. We are challenging the illegal actions of the administration at appropriate forums, and are determined to clear our name.”