ANAND, C.J. -
(1.) The doctrine of promissory estoppel is pressed into aid by the petitioners for asking this Court to issue a writ of certiorari quashing communication No. 537-38/C issued by Conservator of Forests, Srinagar, on 24-3-1986, directing the D.F.O., Fire Wood Division, Respondent No. 4, to issue a public notice inviting tenders for grant of contract for transportation of fire-wood and for a writ of mandamus directing the respondents to allow the petitioners extension of their carriage contract for the year 1986-87 as also to pay to the petitioners a sum of Rs. 1,75,318/- on account of the balance outstanding for the carriage of firewood by the petitioners to Leh, Kargil and Dras.
(2.) Shorn of details, the case of the petitioners, as reflected in their writ petition is that they are carrying on the business of carriage contractors and are registered on with the Forest Department of the respondent State. In the year 1979, the respondents invited tenders for allotment of carriage contract of fire wood and the petitioners amongst others also submitted their tenders which turned out to be the lowest and the work of carriage contract of fire wood for the year 1979-80 was allotted to them. The carriage contracts for the subsequent years 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84, 1984-85 and 1985-86 were also secured by the petitioners by obtaining extensions from year to year. During the year 1985-86, respondent No. 4 vide orders dt. 28-6-1986 and 10-8-1985 asked the petitioners to carry fire wood to Leh, Kargil and Dras, though the carriage of firewood to these areas was not covered by the original contract executed between the parties and extended from time to time. The petitioners accordingly carried firewood to Leh, Kargil and Dras and submitted two bills for the carriage charges totalling Rs. 6,50,315.69. These rates were disputed and were found to be excessive by the respondents. Against the bills submitted by the petitioners a sum of Rs. 4,75,000/- was paid by the respondents though the petitioners kept on insisting for the payment of the balance amount also. According to the petitioners a sum of Rs. 1,75,318/- has remained unpaid to the petitioners, which amount also they claim through this petition. In fairness to Mr. B.A. Khan, it may, however, be recorded that realising that a writ of mandamus is not a substitute for a civil suit of recovery of disputed outstanding amount, arising out of a contract, he did not press the prayer of the petitioners in that behalf may be to take because to civil proceedings.
(3.) The extension granted for the carriage of contract for the year 1985-86 was to expire by the end of Mar, 1986. The petitioners approached the authorities for further extension of carriage contract. The matter was referred to the firewood committee, who, in its meeting held on 3-3-1986, noted with approval the recommendation made by the D.F.O. Firewood Division in favour of the petitioners for grant of extension and agreed that extension be granted to them till ending Mar, 1987. The minutes of the meeting of the Firewood Committee were forwarded to the Chief Conservator of Forest as also to the Conservator of Forest and other Officials. The Conservator of Forests, however, vide his impugned communication No. 537-38/C dt. 24-3-1986, informed the D.F.O. Firewood Division, that the carriage contract be advertised so as to invite public tenders. However, taking note of the fact that it was not feasible to have a new contract finalised with effect from Ist of April, 1986 because of the severe winter, the Conservator of Forests directed the extension of contract in favour of the petitioners till 31st of May, 1986 and directed that the new contract to be executed with the successful party after tenders were invited from the public, should be effective from Ist June, 1986, and the term of the contract was to be from Ist June 1986 to 31st May, 1987. As a result of the aforesaid communication of the Conservator of Forests extension was granted in favour of the petitioners till the end of May, 1986 and steps were initiated for inviting public tenders which however, were put at a naught because of a stay order issued by this Court in this writ petition.;