Commuters do not have to pay toll if highways or expressways are damaged or poorly maintained, the Supreme Court has said, sharply bringing down the commuter tax on NH-6 in Chhattisgarh.
Toll tax has been a contentious issue in many parts of the country, with users often resorting to protests and in extreme cases vandalism to air displeasure over being charged for using bad roads.
“If the roads are bad why should people suffer and pay toll? Why should people suffer because of government’s bad policy or policy lapse?” a bench headed by justice TS Thakur said on Thursday, ordering the Centre to repair a 26-km stretch of the Raipur-Durg highway in Chhattisgarh.
The court allowed the National Highways Authority of India to use `11 crore — deposited by DSC-Viacom Ventures Private Limited — for repairs. The money was deposited on the directions of the Chhattisgarh high court that asked the company to repair National Highway 6.
The money was the toll collected by the company under the build, operate and transfer agreement with the ministry of road. Denying liability, the company sought relief from SC. Not only did the court reject the plea, it also slashed the toll by 80%. If users were paying around Rs 80 for one trip, they will now pay Rs 16 only.
The order, however, will have no bearing on the arbitration proceedings between DSC ventures and the Centre. The company is claiming Rs 33 crore from the government for cancelling its contract, while the Centre wants it to pay up Rs 58 crore.