The ex-servicemen organisations are up in arms against the withdrawal of toll exemption to serving personnel travelling in their private vehicles.
The latest circular issued by the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) on June 17 has stated, “…it is now being clarified that the exemption under the Indian Toll (army and Air Force) Act, 1901, is available only to the persons who are ‘on duty’ and does not pertain to the retired personnel. No exemption is available on use of personal vehicles if it is not used for discharging any official purpose and duty, even if it accompanies the said official. The exemption is available only on production of pass as specified in the Indian Toll (Army and Air Force) Rules, 1942.”
Expressing surprise at the recent MoRTH’s circular, Major Navdeep Singh, advocate of Punjab and Haryana high court, said, “The latest circular by MoRTH is incorrect. The requirement of ‘on duty’ is only applicable to Territorial Army (TA) and National Cadet Corps (NCC) personnel vide Section 3 (b) of the Indian Tolls (Army & Air Force) Act, 1901 and not to regular army personnel vide Section 3 (a).” He added, “The toll exemption cannot be withdrawn for serving personnel until you repeal the Indian Tolls Act.”
It is pertinent to mention here that the provisions of toll exemption to ‘off duty’ and ‘on duty’ defence personnel and also the provisions of the Indian Tolls (Army and Air Force) Act, 1901, was challenged before the Punjab and Haryana high court by one Sanjeev Kumar in 2006. The petition was, however, dismissed by the high court which held that the Act provided for concessions to defence personnel and that there was no reason to interfere.
The decision of the high court was then challenged in the Supreme Court which upheld the decision. Major General Satbir Singh (retd), who heads Indian Ex-servicemen Movement, has written to cabinet minister Nitin Gadkari, who heads the MoRTH, to exempt the serving personnel from paying toll.
“We will also take up the matter. The toll exemption should be made for both serving and retired personnel,” said Lt Col SS Sohi (retd), president, Ex-servicemen Grievance Cell.
“It is sad. The toll exemption should continue. Sometimes defence personnel have to use their personal vehicles instead of official ones and it is not fair that they keep paying toll,” said Brigadier Harwant Singh (retd), president of All India Defence Brotherhood.