In a setback to the Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd, the Supreme Court today refused to stay the Allahabad High Court’s order to declare the DND Flyway toll free.
A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice L Nageswara Rao asked the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to verify the total cost of the NOIDA toll project and whether the concessionaire toll collection company has recovered its cost as provided under the agreement.
The court has given the CAG four weeks to complete the audit.
“We have requested the CAG to verify the cost of the project..." the bench said, adding, "We refuse to grant any relief."
The apex court had on October 28 refused interfere with the HC order restraining the company, saying it will pass directions after Diwali vacations.
On the toll collecting firm's plea for interim stay on HC order, the apex court bench headed by the Chief Justice had said, "You have only ten kms of highway and you claim that you have made a road to the moon. ... You have done well but not something (great)."
The firm had said the High Court did not take into account all aspects and submitted that factors like interest on construction cost, depreciation and maintenance expenses, which come to around Rs 12.5 lakh per day, have not been duly considered.
The High Court, on October 26, had brought cheers to millions of commuters ruling that no toll will be collected henceforth from those using the 9.2 km-long, eight-lane DND Flyway.
The order was passed as the high court allowed a PIL by the Federation of Noida Residents' Welfare Association. The PIL, filed in 2012, had challenged the "levy and collection of toll in the name of user fee" by the NTBCL.
In an over 100-page judgement, the High Court had held "the user fee which is being levied/realised is not supported by the legal provisions relied upon by the Concessionaire (Noida Toll Bridge Company), Infrastructure Leaning and Financial Services (promoter and developer of the project) and Noida Authority."
The court had said that the "right to levy and collect user fee from the commuters as conferred upon the concessionaire under the concession agreement suffers from excessive delegation and is contrary to the provisions UP Industrial Development Act".
It had noted that "the concessionaire, according to their own financial statements, has recovered Rs 810.18 crore (approx) from toll income from the date of commencement of the project till March 31, 2014 and after deduction of operation and maintenance expenses and corporate income tax, the surplus was Rs 578.80 crore (computed before interest, depreciation, and lease rental received by the Concessionaire)".
"They have further realised user fee/toll two-and-a-half years thereafter between April 1, 2014 and September 30, 2016 which, as per the collection of user fee in the year 2013-14 would work out to an additional sum of Rs 300 crore (approx). We are, therefore, more than satisfied that the concessionaire cannot now recover the user fees from the users /commuters of the Noida Toll Bridge the DND Flyover," the HC had said.
The DND flyway started operations in 2001. The 9.2-km stretch was built for Rs 407 crore and is believed to have already collected total Rs 2,000 crore in toll. The toll currently is Rs 12 for two-wheeler and Rs 28 for four-wheeler on a one-way trip.
It is estimated that about 1.5 lakh vehicle use DND toll bridge daily.