The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the government's policy on charging toll-tax under the built-operate transfer (BOT) scheme from motorists and said such a charge should not be levied for an incomplete or damaged road and also for the one that do not have an alternative route.
The BOT scheme envisages a private contractor to construct a toll-road on a highway free of cost. As a result, the road is leased out to the company for a period of 30 years to enable it recover the expenses incurred on the construction. It also entitles the contractor to retain the tax collected. The lease can be extended for another 30 years.
"This facility cannot be just a money-making machine," said a bench of Justice DK Jain and Justice AR Dave while directing National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to place its policy on toll-tax collection. The court termed levy of toll-tax as unreasonable and indicated it would examine the policy.
"What is your policy? First you had eight lanes road. Now it is again being dug out to make a bridge over it. Travellers do not have smooth drive but you still charge toll tax. At every 10-15 km you charge toll tax. It pinches the pocket of travellers," the bench asked one of the government counsel.
The court expressed its reservation over the toll-tax regime during the hearing of a PIL moved by NGO People's Voice that sought a restraint order against the operation of a toll-tax centre in Gurgaon. According to advocate Bhim Singh, motorists were paying tax even though the road was under construction.
"Public must know about it. It (building roads) should not be only to help builders and contractors. I don’t understand your policy. We want to know what your policy is. Why should people pay toll tax when there is no smooth driving on road?" it said.
The court didn’t issue any notice on the PIL but directed the petitioner to expand the plea’s scope. It told Singh to bring in toll tax charged in other parts of the country in its purview.