Supreme Court allows DND Flyway operator to put hoardings in Noida
The hoardings erected by the company were removed by the Noida authority over alleged non-payment of licence fees
The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the operator of the DND Flyway to put up advertisements on the Noida side of the expressway connecting Delhi and Noida after the hoardings erected by the company were removed by the Noida authority over alleged non-payment of licence fees.
The company in question – Noida Toll Bridge Company Limited--relied on revenue from advertisements to maintain the 9km-long road, of which only 2.2km stretch falls under the jurisdiction of the Noida authority. After the hoardings were pulled down, the company approached the Supreme Court claiming it had no revenue to maintain roads and should be allowed to erect hoardings. It also sought an order to stay any coercive action by the Noida authority.
No toll is charged on this stretch after the Allahabad high court on October 26, 2016, restrained the company from collecting toll on a petition filed by Federation of Noida Residents Welfare Association. The company had filed an appeal against this order, which is still pending consideration before the top court. The present application was moved in that petition.
A bench of justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai agreed to allow the request of the company as an interim measure till it takes up the main appeal in March. The court permitted hoardings to be erected by the company on the Noida side of DND Flyway on payment of licence fee to the Noida authority at the rate of ₹125/ square feet per month to be deposited in advance. The Court clarified that it was an interim arrangement being made in the interest of maintaining the road.
Representing the company, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the sole aim behind the action of the Noida authority was to irreparably harm the financial assets of his client and to negate its continued viability as a going concern.
“It is a completely egregious act. This should not be done by a public authority. In 2010, the fee applicable to us under the advertisement policies of Noida was ₹50/sq ft that was increased to ₹125/sq ft in 2013, which we paid under protest. Now by a letter of December 31, 2018, the license fee to display advertisement along DND Flyway has been retrospectively increased to ₹300/sq ft. This issue is pending in arbitration which is also stayed.”
Senior advocate Ravindra Kumar, who represented the Noida authority, opposed the application by claiming that the company defaulted payment of licence fee since 2010 and has been handsomely earning revenue on the Delhi side of DND Flyway, which was sufficient to maintain the roads.
“The right to put up hoarding was not part of the Concession agreement. From April 1, 2019, they have no permission. The arbitral tribunal is not concerned with this issue,” said Kumar.
However, being an interim arrangement, the court clarified that its order will not create any equity for any side.
The company, represented by the law firm Karanjawala & Co, told the court the obligations cast on it regarding the operations and maintenance of the bridge under the Concession Agreement required constant maintenance of the road, besides making necessary arrangements for traffic and security arrangements that required day-to-day expenses. The company produced audited balance sheets to show the financial stress on the company due to the general economic slowdown brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.