ALLAHABAD / NOIDA: DND Flyway, the 9.2km-long access-controlled 8-lane road connecting South Delhi to Noida and East Delhi, is now toll-free. On Wednesday, the Allahabad high court passed an order restraining Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd (NTBCL) from collecting toll with immediate effect.
By Wednesday evening, cars that had to pay Rs 28 for a single trip, were zipping past the booths freely as the concessionaire had stopped collecting toll. “We welcome the historic verdict…. The public-friendly judgment has come after four years of waiting,” said Chetan Sharma, secretary general of the Confederation of NCR Residents Welfare Associations (CONRWA).
This is the second time in Delhi that courts have stopped concessionaires from charging toll. In February 2014, the Delhi HC ordered dismantling of the toll plaza at Sirhaul on the Gurgaon Expressway. The Wednesday’s order was passed by a division bench of Justice Arun Tandon and Justice Sunita Agarwal, which said NTBCL has already realized the construction cost of the flyway , and so there was no need to continue collecting toll from vehicles.
The Federation of Noida Residents Welfare Associations (FONRWA), which had moved the Allahabad high court in 2012, filed a special leave petition+ in the Supreme Court in April this year seeking an order to restrain NTBCL from collecting toll on DND.
In June, the Supreme Court directed the Allahabad high court to decide on FONRWA’s plea in three months. But trouble had been brewing for long, and matters reached a head when NTBCL raised one-way toll for cars from Rs 25 to Rs 28 in April 2015. This triggered large scale protests+ , and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav ordered a probe to find out if there was any justification in continuing to charge toll on the flyway .
Ranjit Saxena, the advocate for FONRWA, claimed that NTBCL had already collected about Rs 2,000 crore in toll and had more than recovered the Rs 408 crore it had cost them to build the flyway.The NTBCL spokesperson could not be reached for comments despite repeated attempts.
DND became operational in February 2001, when the toll was only Rs 10. In 1992, UP government signed an MoU with the Delhi administration and Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS) to build a toll bridge across the Yamuna. IL&FS promoted NTBCL to make the flyway on a build, own, operate, transfer basis.In 1996, NTBCL was incorporated into a public listed company with its corporate headquarters in Lucknow.
In court, NTBCL leaned on the original terms of agreement in arguing its case. This agreement gave IL&FS and NTBCL sole charge of the flyway on a build-own-operate-transfer basis. The agreement also allowed NTBCL to fix toll rates on its own and authorized it to collect toll for at least 30 years, which could be extended if NTBCL did not earn enough returns on its investment. NTBCL was assured a 20% profit, the only agreement for a project with such a clause.
But on Wednesday , the court said the amended agreement between NTBCL and Noida permitting the company to collect toll till April 1, 2031, was arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution (right to equality) and involved excessive delegation and was thus unfair and unjust. The petitioner’s contention was that through toll collection, the company had already earned many times more than its total project cost but was still collecting toll from public.
NTBCL, however, argued that its contract with Noida was binding and collection of toll over the bridge was less than what was estimated in the contract. Hence, as per the contract, the liability of Noida had only increased in the last few years. Therefore, in case of breach of contract, the authority would be liable to pay a huge amount of compensation to NTBCL.
Wtf only 26 rupees toll. Here in Mumbai 35rupees toll at Vashi then 30 ₹ toll at kamothe another 218₹ toll for express way to reach Pune.No BS
Further, as NTBCL had been given the authority to collect toll for a period of 30 years, it must be allowed to collect toll for the period to avoid activating the compensatory clause of the contract.
None of these arguments, however, convinced the high court.