Manohar M.N. v. State of M.P.
In the High Court of Madhya Pradesh
M.Cr.C. No. 35958/2019
Before Justice Rajeev Kumar Dubey
Decided on September 05, 2019
Relevancy of the case: Working of the e-tendering system.
Statutes & Provisions Involved
- The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Section 66)
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 120B, 420, 467, 468, 471)
- The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Section 439)
- The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (Section 7, 13(2))
- The Madhya Pradesh Excise Act, 1915 (Section 34(a))
Relevant Facts of the Case
- State Electronics Development Corporation Ltd. is a body working under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of Madhya Pradesh. They adopted the e-tendering system using an online platform and chose MPSEDC as the Nodal Agency for M.P. e-procurement portal.
- MPSEDC selected M/s. Tata Consultancy Services with Antares Systems Ltd. as the new implementation agency for end-to-end e-procurement solutions. The new service providers undertook the customization, integration, implementation, and maintenance of single, unitary, web-based e-procurement software with the specified modules which also included e-tendering.
- Applicant Manohar M.N. was the Vice President of Antares Systems Ltd. and was the project in-charge on behalf of the company. Co-accused Nandkishor Brahme was posted as OSD in MPSEDC and was assigned the duty as a Nodal Officer of the e-tendering project.
- In the e-tendering project, MPSEDC made a platform which was available to various government departments for floating tenders. In the tendering process, the concerned department, which issued the tender, uploaded its tender on the portal on which the last date of filing tender and the time of its opening was mentioned. While issuing the tender, the concerned officer also attached the public key of his digital signature. The tenderer, after registering himself on M.P. e-procurement portal, filled the tender and after filing the tender, submitted the tender on the portal after it was encrypted by the public key of the officer concerned, attached with the tender. After submission of the tender, no departmental officer, e-tendering company or another person could open the tender before its opening time.
- In 2018, when three tenders were to be opened (floated by the Madhya Pradesh Jal Nigam Maryadit), the computer displayed a message that “the contents of the document had been modified”.
- Antares Systems Ltd. gave the Root Cause Analysis Report (R.C.A.) stating that the tenders had been tampered with. The report found that some other tenders were also manipulated with. In the preliminary enquiry, it was found that the bid prices of the tenders were changed due to which the companies earned illegal profits.
- The manipulation was done by one of the user ID and bid ID. For manipulation of the tenders of MPJNM, a demo file was created on MP e-procurement portal. That file was created using ID PT 4 which was given to OSMO IT Solutions at the time of performance testing and they also used digital signature certificate (DSC) of Keshav Rao Uikey. The IP address registered while creating the said demo file was linked with a mobile number which was registered in the name of the co-accused Varun Chaturvedi. Hackers entered into the database through the staging server, where original tenders were stored and this process was done through a virtual private network (VPN), the access of which was only with the co-accused Nandkishore Bramhe.
- After reaching the database server, the hackers accessed the file where the original tenders were saved. They copied the details of all the bidders who submitted the bids, which were encrypted. After copying the bids, they again came back to the demo tender file which was created by them earlier and by using bidder ID and vendor ID, pasted the said bids in the demo file.
- After pasting the encrypted bid in the demo file, the hackers accessed the system again. Thus, they were able to see the figures/bids submitted by all the bidders in the encrypted form. After seeing the amount filed by each bidder, another demo file was created in the second demo file. The encrypted bids as visible in the first demo file were pasted in the second demo file. Again, by using the bidder ID they manipulated the bids and made the person they wanted to benefit as the lowest bidder. After making the change in the second demo file and placing a wrong bidder, hackers copied the encrypted/manipulated bid value. By using the staging server, they reached the database server through a VPN, access of which was given to the co-accused Nandkishore Bramhe. Then, they opened the original tender file and pasted the said encrypted/manipulated bid value next to the name of the bidder they wanted to benefit and thus, manipulated the bids.
Opinion of the Bench
Justice Rajeev Kumar Dubey:
- It is alleged that the demo files which were used in the manipulation of the bids were created and made available to OSMO Pvt. Ltd. by the applicant Manohar M.N. But according to the prosecution, demo files were made available to OSMO Pvt. Ltd. by the applicant to conduct a performance test in the year 2016 while manipulation took place in the year 2018. There is no direct evidence on record to show that the applicant has any connection with the co-accused Varun Chaturvedi and Vinay Choudhary, the Managing Directors of OSMO Pvt. Ltd. and Sumit Golwalkar, the Marketing Director of OSMO Pvt. Ltd.
- No unaccountable property or tainted money was seized by the police from the possession of the applicant. Similarly, no other incriminating document was seized by the police from the possession of the applicant. Also, there was no likelihood of him absconding or tampering with the prosecution evidence.
- The application is allowed and it is directed that the applicant be released on bail, upon him furnishing personal bond in the sum of Rs. fifty thousand with one surety in the like amount to the satisfaction of the concerned court for his appearance before the trial court on all such dates as may be fixed in this behalf by the trial court during the pendency of the trial.