The ride between Delhi and Noida on the DND Flyway became toll-free after the Allahabad high court on Wednesday ordered the private concessionaire to stop collecting user-fee from commuters, saying they were being illegally taxed.
Managed by the Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd (NTBCL), the eight-lane, 9.2km road connecting Noida with south Delhi, was opened on February 6, 2001. The toll for a car was Rs 8 for each journey initially, but it was gradually hiked to Rs 28.
Almost 150,000 vehicles use the flyway on an average weekday; 110,000 vehicles pass through the Noida toll gate and an average 40,000 use the Mayur Vihar link road opened in January 2008.
“We direct that, henceforth, Noida Toll Bridge Company, the concessionaire shall not impose or recover any user fee or toll from commuters for using the DND,” a bench of Justice Arun Tandon and Justice Sunita Agarwal said.
The order came on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the Federation of Noida Residents Welfare Associations in 2012 to restrain the concessionaire from collecting toll tax. Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited is the promoter company of the NTBCL, whose job was to construct, operate and maintain the flyway till 2031.
The company stopped collecting toll after the high court order, which it said will challenge in the Supreme Court on Thursday.
The court said the company had recovered returns, interests and cost incurred on the construction of the DND Flyway and, therefore, they are not entitled to receive any more money.
Also, the court held as faulty the formula to calculate the total project cost.
“Going by the formula adopted in Article 14 of the concession agreement, the unrecovered cost goes on escalating and it would not be possible to achieve 100% returns of the total project cost even at the end of 100 years, what to talk of 2031, ” it said in its 121-page order.
The court faulted the agreement between the Noida Authority and the concessionaire too, calling arbitrary, but refusing to quash the contract.
“This case is a glaring example of misuse of power by a public authority in first entering into the agreement and then framing regulations to bring the clauses of agreement with a private person (company) in line with the legislation so as to give it a statutory backing.”
It said delegating the power to levy and collect user-fee to a private company was bad legally.
The selection of the concessionaire itself was done in an arbitrary fashion and was unfair and unjust, the court ruled.
(With inputs from Jitendra Sarin in Allahabad)