DND flyway to remain toll free till quantification of profit: SC

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New Delhi: The DND flyway will remain toll free for the time being as ordered by Allahabad High Court two days ago, the Supreme Court said on Friday and brushed aside Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd’s desperate plea to resume toll.

The DND operator said it had taken up the project in 1997 when no one was coming forward to construct the bridge on the build, operate and transfer basis. It said it had earned Rs 1,103 crore from toll so far and had a long way to go to earn the profit stipulated in the contract before transferring the flyway to Noida Authority.

A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L N Rao asked senior advocate A M Singhvi to quantify the profit NTBCL desired to get before moving out. But Singhvi did not give a figure except spelling out the cost of construction, maintenance and operations.

However, he repeatedly told the court that the DND flyway was an excellent example of how highways should be. The bench said, “It is just a 9.5-km stretch of highway. You are projecting it as if it is a masterpiece, a road to the moon.”

Finding it difficult to convince the court that it had not yet earned the profit due to it legitimately, Singhvi offered that this aspect could be inquired into by any independent auditor or even the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

The bench agreed with the proposal and said it would pass “appropriate orders” on November 7. “We will pass orders asking an independent auditor or CAG to determine what should be the profit due to NTBCL from the DND flyway. We will get the report within a month. After that we will decide whether toll should be reimposed,” the bench said.

This sparked a panic reaction from NTBCL and its promoter Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (ILFS). NTBCL through Singhvi said if the court later found that the company was to collect toll for a few more years, how would it chase those who had raced through the DND for free and recover toll.

The bench gave an equally convincing response, “If we find later that you are not entitled to collect toll as was found by the HC, will you chase and refund the amount to those who had paid toll?”

ILFS through senior advocate K K Venugopal gave an interesting argument for resumption of toll. “After Allahabad HC made DND flyway free for passage, there was huge jams in south Delhi. That was because those who had no reason to use the toll bridge went through it just for fun and there was heavy rush of vehicles at Ashram. To control traffic, toll must resume,” he said.

NTBCL also said it incurred a daily expense of Rs 5.5 lakh to maintain and secure the flyway. “The HC has stopped toll collection but has not relieved NTBCL from its duty to maintain and secure the DND flyway,” Singhvi said.

The SC asks Noida Authority about its stand on the matter. But it surprised the court by not committing either way — whether to stop toll or allow the operator to collect it.