HindustanTimes Thu,18 Dec 2014


India stuck in London congestion charge logjam
Prasun Sonwalkar , Hindustan Times
London, November 07, 2013
First Published: 01:41 IST(7/11/2013)
Last Updated: 02:07 IST(7/11/2013)

If you drive into central London on weekdays, you will enter a zone that is marked ‘C’, which stands for ‘Congestion Charging Zone’, where you need to pay a ‘congestion charge’ of £10 per car.

However, in a continuing impasse, around 71 embassies and high commissions have not been paying the charge. These include India, the US, Japan, Russia, Germany and France.

According to Transport for London (TfL) — the government body responsible for transport in Greater London — the debt owed by the Indian high commission here is over £3 million, making it the sixth highest defaulter.

The key point of dispute is whether the ‘congestion charge’ is a charge for a service or a tax. TfL officials insist it is a ‘charge’ for a service and not a tax, while India and other foreign missions believe it is a tax, which they are exempt from paying under the Vienna Convention. Prashant Pise, Head of Chancery in the Indian high commission, told HT: “congestion charge was not a service charge but a tax which should be exempted under Vienna Convention.” But the London transport authorities have now urged the Foreign Office to take the matter to the International Court of Justice.

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