The Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday dismissed the contention of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to further prolong the opening of the Pinjore-Parwanoo bypass by 10 days, which is a part of the four-laning project of the Panchkula-Shimla highway.
During a resumed hearing, the concessionaire company, Himalayan Expressway Limited, submitted that the public had been notified that the highway would be operational on April 6. However, it received a letter from NHAI that the highway could be made operational only after 10 days from the date of publication of user fee (toll) in the official gazette, which is April 2.
NHAI submitted that this 10-day period had been mentioned in the agreement with the company. However, the court observed that on March 22, it had ordered that the highway would be opened after three days of notification of user fee (toll) and NHAI did not make any mention of such a clause in the agreement despite the fact that its officials were present in the court.
It said the stipulation of 10 days was there in the agreement to make public aware of the operation of the highway, but this had been already been done in advance by the concessionaire.
The court ordered that the bypass would be made operational on April 6.
The whole project of the four-laning of Zirakpur-Parwanoo stretch, which is a part of the National Highway Development Project, Phase-III, was awarded to Jaiprakash Associates (Himalyan Expressways Pvt Ltd) in 2007 under build operate transfer (BOT) basis. It further gave the construction work to C and C Constructions company.
It is a 28.69-km project, awarded at Rs 295 crore, with 20 km in Haryana, 2 km in Punjab and 6.69 km in Himachal Pradesh. The road up to 17.25 km is till Mallah in Pinjore and then there is a bypass (of about 11 km) till Parwanoo, which joins the main road near the Timber Trail resort. The toll plaza will be operated by Jaiprakash Associates for 17 years.
No reply by NHAI
The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) did not file any reply till date to the two notices (February 23 and March 18) issued to them by the Haryana forest department regarding violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 for construction of toll plaza and its offices.
On Wednesday, Ajay Kadian, conservator of forests (north circle), Haryana, told HT that, "We have already issued two notices to them. We will take action against them as per rules. No one can go scot-free."
On March 26, SK Sehrawat, additional principal chief conservator of forests, ministry of environment and forests, had sought a detailed violation report, including action taken report from principal chief conservator of forests, Haryana, in this regard.
The toll plaza also violates the Periphery Act for which district town planner (DTP) Hitesh Sharma had issued notice to NHAI and Himalayan Expressway Limited. The objective of the Act is to prevent growth of slums and ramshackle constructions, within 10 miles on all sides from the outer boundary of the land acquired for Chandigarh. The penal action on this violation is pending for legal opinion sought by the DTP.