Expressway row not over, SDMC seeks access of all 16 toll plaza

After toll plaza row on Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway seemed to be over, SDMC asserted in Delhi High Court that 4 proposed toll lanes, would be inadequate to levy tax on commercial vehicles.

New Delhi: A day after the row over toll plazas on Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway seemed to be over, South Delhi Municipal Corporation on Thursday asserted in the Delhi High Court that four proposed toll lanes, out of 16, would be grossly inadequate to levy tax on commercial vehicles entering the national capital.

The court had yesterday recorded a consent order in terms of a tripartite settlement among NHAI, Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Ltd (DGSCL) and lead financier IDFC and said 12 of existing 16 toll plazas, causing huge traffic snarls, would be dismantled.

However, SDMC on Thursday told Justice Manmohan Singh that while trucks and tankers can be identified and stopped for not paying the entry fee, smaller commercial vehicles, like BPO cabs, would be a difficult to catch hold of and sought use of all the 16 toll plazas on the highway instead of merely four.

NHAI, irked over the SDMC`s claim, said it is not obligated in any way to hand over any infrastructure to Delhi government or SDMC and also that the law provides for smooth, unobstructed flow of traffic on highways and presence of toll plazas prevented the same.

The high court too was of the view that handing over of all 16 toll plazas would not be possible.

"That is not possible," Justice Singh said.

The court also asked SDMC to start right away collecting the tax on vehicles entering Delhi when the authority sought more time to work out the modalities.
Yesterday, by way of a consent order, the court said 12 of the 16 toll plazas on the expressway would go.

However, the remaining four lanes were allowed to be used by SDMC and its contractor, SMS Infrastructure Limited, to collect entry tax from commercial vehicles coming to Delhi.

SDMC, which was not a party to the settlement, submitted before the court on Thursday that collection of entry tax from four lanes "is not possible" as it would be difficult to segregate and divert the commercial vehicles, like cabs, from other cars and would lead to clogging.

SDMC argued if it is allowed to use all 16 toll plazas, it will only stop vehicles which are liable to pay entry tax and no other and the barriers will remain in open position always.

NHAI objected to the claim of SDMC, saying all structures on national highways belong to it and access to the same is decided only by it and no one else as per statute.

It said permission to set up structures and take them down are given by it and it has the right to revoke the same.

It also said that as per the agreement between Delhi government, SDMC and its contractor to collect entry tax from commercial vehicles, NHAI is not obligated to provide any infrastructure or support to any of them.

"The agreement does not contemplate anything to be done by us," NHAI told the court.

It also said having toll plazas defeats the whole purpose of having an expressway.

Meanwhile, the contractor pleaded with the court to protect it till the issue, raised by SDMC, is decided as it has to pay Rs 26 crore per day to the civic body and it cannot do that from the collection derived from four toll lanes.

The court, however, said it will come to the contractor`s plea after it decides SDMC`s issue and refused to pass any interim order.

It had earlier refused to implead SDMC as a party in the dispute involving NHAI, DGSCL and IDFC saying this plea "cannot be accepted, coupled with the fact that NHAI has agreed to provide four lanes of the toll plaza, as discussed earlier, to the applicant to charge the toll tax from the commercial vehicles. NHAI is also ready to cooperate with SDMC who can create its infrastructure for the purposes of collecting toll tax."