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.