January,24,2016: Supreme Court on Wednesday, approving the decade-old policy of the union government that public tenders are not required for the purchase of strategically and critically important equipment used in defence equipment, ruled that “for such defense critical spare parts like submarine batteries, there cannot be any open advertisement inviting tenders”.
The Bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice R. Banumathi while allowing an appeal filed by the union government nine years ago challenging a Delhi High Court judgment that directed it to invite public tenders for submarine batteries, which are a lifeline for the high-cost submersible equipment held that, “Advertisements are issued calling for tenders only for common use items which are normally available in the open market with a wide range of sources. Submarine batteries do not fall under this category of common use items.”
The Apex Court further held that, “If the country wishes to play a substantial role in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, India must ensure high standards of defence power comparing with the neighboring countries and it should have modernized submarines. Modernized submarines require submarine batteries with high sophisticated standard under the aegis of DGQA. The Government cannot put the life of its defence personnel and submarine worth crores of rupees to risk simply because the respondent claims to have the capability and can supply submarine batteries. For such defence critical spare parts like submarine batteries, there cannot be any open 11 Page 12 advertisement inviting tenders.”
Officials of the Director General of Quality Assurance [DGQA] are posted at the factory of the supplier to ensure that the goods produced are absolutely in order. The DGQA inspectors examine every stage of production right from the sourcing of the raw materials by the vendor, as it is quite possible that the “vendor may purchase inferior quality material which may be difficult to detect in the final product”.
The importance of submarine batteries to a submarine cannot be underestimated as it is strategically vital equipment for submarines, the top court asserted.
Power to the submarine is provided by about 240 to 528 batteries, weighing about 800 kgs each, depending on the nature of submarine. The only source of power to a submarine when it dives beyond nine meters into sea is submarine batteries.
Thus Supreme Court held that,”If the batteries fail, submarine will be without power and it can have catastrophic consequences on men as also submarine would be lost.”
Read Text of Full Judgment here: