The ride between Delhi and Noida on the DND flyway will remain toll-free as the Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay an Allahabad high court order asking the operator to stop collecting the user charge.
A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur indicated it would get the accounts of the Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd (NTBCL) examined by an independent auditor and then decide its appeal for setting aside the HC order.
NTBCL was ready for a CAG audit, its counsel senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi. As he kept insisting that the DND flyway was the best expressway, the court shot back, “You have just constructed a 10-km stretch and not a road to the Moon.”
Managed by 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 but it was gradually hiked to Rs 28. Almost 150,000 vehicles ply on the flyway on a weekday.
The audit would take at least a month and it couldn’t allow collection of toll, as in case of an adverse verdict, it would not be possible for the company to reimburse commuters, the court said.
SC to give its order on appeal challenging HC order after a week @htTweets— bhadra sinha (@BhadraSinha) October 28, 2016
Singhvi denied NTBCL had recovered returns, interests and cost incurred on the flyway’s construction and its maintenance, the reasons cited by the HC while scrapping the toll.
NTBCL submitted its books to the Noida authority every year but it didn’t ask them to stop collecting the toll, Singhvi said. “I have been asked to take care of the stretch, carpet the road for the next 15 years but not charge toll,” he said.
When the court asked the Noida authority if NTBCL had recovered its costs, its counsel said he had no instructions. There was no officer to advise the lawyer either. “Why isn’t anyone present? Don’t they find this a serious issue?” the court asked.
Senior advocate KK Venugopal, appearing for IL&FS, told the court that the removal of toll booth from the expressway had led to massive jams near Ashram. Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited is the promoter company of the NTBCL whose job was to construct, operate and maintain the DND flyway on a “build own operate transfer” basis till 2031.
The high court on Wednesday directed NTBCL to immediately stop collecting toll, allowing a public interest litigation by the Federation of Noida Residents Welfare Associations against the charge.