Le­gal OPIN­ION & Coun­sel

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Techno-le­gal Is­sues

P. S. reddy, Be civil en­gi­neer­ing, MBA, Ad­vo­cate & le­gal con­sul­tant, Prime law As­so­ciates, hy­der­abad, high­lights the un­pre­dictable dis­putes & lit­i­ga­tions in­volv­ing Ce­ment, Con­crete, Chem­i­cal and Con­struc­tion tech­nol­ogy us­age in the sec­tor.

To­day, con­crete and con­struc­tion are in­sep­a­ra­ble thus, the name “Con­crete Con­struc­tion”. Hav­ing said that, con­crete de­fects present them­selves from time to time, lead­ing to dis­putes & lit­i­ga­tions. In­ves­ti­ga­tions can lead to sev­eral com­pound­ing and con­fus­ing fac­tors which re­quire in­dus­try-spe­cific tech­ni­cal and le­gal in­for­ma­tion to help to solve the dis­putes & lit­i­ga­tions more ef­fec­tively.

Gov­ern­ment’s to­tal al­lo­ca­tion for in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment in 2017-18 stands at Rs.3,96,135crores. With con­struc­tion projects of such in­vest­ments en­vis­aged,gov­ern­ment is mak­ing ef­forts not to get struck in dis­putes among the stake hold­ers of the in­dus­try. It is draft­ing ef­fec­tive mech­a­nism and mak­ing suit­able amend­ments to ex­ist­ing acts for res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes re­lated to in­fra­struc­ture like con­struc­tion con­tracts, PPP and pub­lic util­ity con­tracts.

sce­nario Of Dis­putes & lit­i­ga­tion

The res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes and lit­i­ga­tions starts from un­der­stand­ing the rights de­rived from statutes and stand­ing for the same, with­out prej­u­dice. Al­though, the in­dus­try does not pos­sess com­pre­hen­sive data on pre and live dis­putes and lit­i­ga­tion, but cer­tain sources in­di­cate that about Rs.70,000 crores worth of money, ad­ju­di­cated as ar­bi­tra­tion awards is ei­ther pend­ing for ap­peal or await­ing pay­ment. Thus, dis­putes & lit­i­ga­tion has grown as a ma­jor and un­avoid­able con­cern among con­struc­tion in­dus­try play­ers.

It is nec­es­sary that in­dus­try stake­hold­ers are knowl­edge­able enough to avoid the sit­u­a­tions of dis­putes and lit­i­ga­tion and are aware of the means of le­gal re­course and reme­dies. Re­port­ing facts and ad­her­ing to best en­gi­neer­ing prac­tices, may not alone keep away the im­pend­ing le­gal is­sues. That’s where le­gal lit­er­acy steps in.

techno-le­gal chal­lenges

There are two fun­da­men­tal chal­lenges– firstly, how to de­sign

and build new struc­tures that are durable; se­condly, how to main­tain, re­pair and ex­tend the ser­vice life of ex­ist­ing struc­tures.

Prima fa­cie struc­tural de­fi­cien­cies, er­ro­neous de­signs, sub­stan­dard qual­ity ma­te­ri­als, poor work­man­ship, in­ad­e­quate su­per­vi­sion, non-com­pli­ance with tech­ni­cal stan­dards etc end up to cir­cum­stances like de­mol­ish and re­build or re­pair and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the dis­tressed struc­tural el­e­ment. Though the vic­tim is a non-liv­ing con­crete struc­ture but, the pre­ma­ture de­cay of life-line con­crete struc­tures, such as rail, road or bridges, siphons na­tional ex­che­quer. Ad-hoc at­tempts to re­pair the symp­toms, through crude tech­niques, fur­ther, dam­ages the con­crete struc­ture, wast­ing pre­cious time and re­sources.

Presently tech­ni­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions car­ried by civil en­gi­neer­ing ex­perts, fo­cuses on re­al­iz­ing the cause of the prob­lem and de­riv­ing per­ma­nent rem­edy. But, that re­mains as an ex­pert opin­ion in the eyes of ju­di­ciary. The fact is techno-le­gal prob­lems per­sist from con­struc­tion stage it­self and there­after dur­ing de­fec­tive li­a­bil­ity pe­riod. It’s ad­vis­able to re­strain any pro­fes­sional opin­ion, based on a cur­sory sur­vey and not know­ing the given pe­cu­liar “facts and cir­cum­stances” sur­round­ing the case. Scope for dis­putes along with le­gal com­pli­ca­tions oc­cur due to in­con­sis­tent, am­bigu­ous and in­suf­fi­ciently tailored re­ports among the multi mil­lion pro­ject stake hold­ers. In the process the cul­prit is left with­out pun­ish­ment. Hence new mantra should be ev­i­dence­based ap­proach, for serv­ing holis­tic pur­pose.

if con­crete con­struc­tion fails, dis­putes & lit­i­ga­tions can lead to pro­ject de­lays and busi­ness risks for con­struc­tion com­pa­nies as also to sup­ply chain sec­tor, in­clud­ing the ce­ment, con­crete, con­struc­tion chem­i­cals and other ma­te­ri­als sup­pli­ers and ser­vice providers.

P. s. REDDY

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