Techno-Legal Issues

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 Industry.

 

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.

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.

 

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 stake holders 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 ends 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 evidence-based approach, for serving holistic purpose.

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