The Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday slapped a fine of Rs 67 crore on the concessionaire, Soma Isolex Rollways, and its director for failing to convert the 291-kilometre Panipat-Jalandhar national highway into a six-lane road within time, in spite of many extensions of deadline.
A bench led by justice Rajive Bhalla has directed the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to take over the project, complete it within six months, and deposit the toll collection into a separate account. NHAI also has three months to look into toll collection and how a big project such as this had gone to a single concessionaire.
Justice Bhalla also made it clear that the NHAI couldn't use the inquiry as an excuse to delay the completion of the national highway in time. The concessionaire is ordered to deposit Rs 60 crore and its director, PR Rao, must submit Rs 7 crore in the court within three weeks.
The court has also vacated its stay put on the NHAI's notice to the concessionaire in August last year to show why the contract should not be scrapped. Justice Bhalla also ordered Rao to reply by July 12 to why the contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him for failing to fulfill the undertaking given to the court for completing the project by March 2013.
Signal-free six-lane road on the 291-km national highway from Panipat to Jalandhar
Awarded to the concessionaire, Soma Isolex Rollways, in May 2009
Original deadline November 2011
Extended deadlines: June 2012 (second); March 2013 (third); also December 2012 (Haryana section) and March 2013 (Punjab section)
Original estimated cost Rs 2,500 crore
Current estimated cost Rs 5,000 crore
Plan included nearly 120 flyovers, 20 major and 116 minor bridges, and several two-wheeler and pedestrian crossings on the stretch
Work done 70%
Reasons for delay
Approval of drawings by the railway authorities
Non-availability of raw material