SC allows NHAI to go ahead with toll plaza bidding process

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today allowed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to conduct bidding for 94 toll plazas nationwide, but refrained it from awarding work to the winning firms.

The Apex court's order would affect NHAI's work, as the Highway regulator has already notified 35 toll centres for bidding and is in the process of doing so for the rest.

A bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir, directed NHAI to go ahead with the proposed bidding, under the policy of collection of toll through open bid system, and directed it to finalise the contracts.

However, the bench, which also comprised Justices Cyriac Joseph and Deepak Verma, put a rider that the Authority would not give work orders to successful bidders.

In a policy shift, NHAI has decided to award toll collection contracts only to entities that specialise in tolling, partnership firms, companies or cooperative societies.

The earlier rules allowed contracts to be awarded individuals as well.

The Court's direction came while hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the orders of the Allahabad High Court, which had on July 1, 2010 stayed NHAI's bidding on 9 toll plazas in the state and directed it not to proceed with the tendering process.

Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati, appearing for NHAI, submitted before the apex court that the High Court's order was unnecessary and was hampering the work of the Highway regulator.

He said the government, as a policy, has decided to award tenders only to entities with specialisation in tolling, partnership firms, companies or cooperative societies.

NHAI in its petition said that according to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways individuals were not managing toll plazas properly, leading to public inconvenience and a decline in revenues.

Following that, NHAI on July 1, 2010 issued advertisement inviting bids from entities for toll plazas in Uttar Pradesh, a move that was challenged by contractors in the High Court.