The flyway connecting Delhi and neigbouring Noida will remain toll-free for commuters, with Supreme Court today refusing to stay an Allahabad High Court order restraining Noida Toll Bridge Company Limited from levying the cess, saying it should not claim it has built “a road to the moon”.
The apex court, which refused to interfere with the HC order for the time being, said, “let the interim arrangement be there. We will pass some order after Diwali vacation.”
A bench, comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said it will decide on the submission of referring the issue of calculation of toll collected, which has been disputed by the company, to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
When senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the toll collecting firm, was repeatedly assailing the High Court order and seeking an interim stay on it, the bench said “you have only ten kms of highway and you claim that you have made a road to the moon. … You have done well but not something (great).”
Singhvi said Noida Toll Bridge Company Limited (NTBCL) is a company limited by shares and listed with stock exchanges here and abroad including London, and permitting it to collect toll for one or two more months would cause no harm to anyone.
“The balance of convenience is in our favour as I have been collecting toll for last 15 years. If tomorrow it is held that I have the right to collect toll then we cannot go on chasing vehicles for the past toll,” he said.
To this, the bench asked “if we hold otherwise, then will you chase vehicle owners to return the money collected. … You don’t lose much and it is only in terms of time you may lose, but if you succeed, you will get extra time”.
At the outset, the bench said it wanted to know about the expenses incurred and the “permissible return” the firm wished to get back from the Delhi-Noida Direct (DND) flyway.
Referring to the terms of contract and accounting details with regard to the flyway, Singhvi said the High Court did not take into account all aspects and submitted that factors like interest on construction cost, depreciation and maintenance expenses, which comes to around Rs 12.5 lakh per day, have not been duly considered.
The Supreme Court in June had refused to restrain Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd (NTBCL) from collecting toll on the DND flyway connecting Noida and Delhi and asked Allahabad High Court to expeditiously decide the plea of residents associations against levy of the toll.
“We will request the High Court to dispose of the PIL in three months and if that is not possible, then your (petitioner Federation of Noida Residents Welfare Association) plea for interim relief (of restraining toll operator from collecting toll) will be considered,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said.
The Federation of Noida Residents Welfare Association (FNRWA) through its President N P Singh has moved the apex court challenging the High Court order by which it had refused to restrain toll operator NTBCL from collecting the toll.
The FNRWA has also alleged that the High Court did not decide its PIL filed in 2012, despite the fact that it was listed for hearing on 70 occasions.
The plea, filed through advocate Ranjit Saxena, said that various clauses of the concessionaire agreement between the Noida authority and NTBCL were totally in favour of the toll collecting firm which has already earned nearly four times of their total project cost.
Besides the NTBCL, the plea had made various entities including New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Public Works Department and Uttar Pradesh government as parties.
“The present SLP has been preferred against the interim impugned judgment and order dated January 31, 2013 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad in PIL vide which the High Court did not consider the Application for stay…,” the plea said.
It said, “the entire public of Noida and Delhi are being harassed by the charge of toll fees because the NTBCL has shown the project cost of Rs 2339.70 crore on March 31, 2012 while the investment in the year 1997 was only Rs 408 crore and till 2012, as per audit report prepared by NTBCL, Rs 801.06 crore were recovered and there was profit of Rs 581.48 crore of NTBCL”.
The FNRWAs, in its plea, said the agreement between the toll operator and Noida authority was against public interest.
The petition alleged that the period for recovering the amount has been increased from 30 to 100 years by the Noida authorities.
It also claimed that NTBCL had a share profit of 160 per cent income, as per its audit report, but the company was harassing the public using the DND flyway by continuing to impose the “illegal” toll tax.
It said the HC bench had failed to appreciate the fact that the money, which is four times that of the construction cost, has already been recovered by the firm.
(With inputs from PTI)