Withdrawal of toll on Mumbai-Pune expressway: Bombay HC gives State 3 weeks to respond

Withdrawal of toll on Mumbai-Pune expressway: Bombay HC gives State 3 weeks to respond
Toll plaza on the Mumbai-Pune expressway

The Bombay High Court on Monday sought a reply from the Maharashtra government on a local activist’s plea seeking the withdrawal of toll on the Mumbai-Pune expressway.

In 2004, Ideal Road Builders (IRB) Ltd had bagged the 15-year contract for the maintenance and repairs of the expressway by paying an amount of Rs 918 crore upfront.

As per the petitioner, Praveen Wategaonkar, in 2015 the government had announced its decision to close 12 toll plazas across the state and to exempt light motor vehicles and the state transport (ST) buses from having to pay toll on select toll plazas.

Wategaonkar said in April 2015, the Maharashtra government also formed a committee to look into the feasibility of exempting light motor vehicles from paying any toll for use of the expressway.

In 2016, the committee submitted that as per the concession agreement between the state and the contractor, the latter had a right to collect up to Rs 1,362 crore by charging such toll.

It suggested that the government pay Rs 1,362 crore to the contractor and thus, exempt all vehicles from having to pay toll on the expressway.

However, while the government is yet to take a decision on the recommendation, the contractor has already collected about Rs 1,500 crore by way of toll.

The contractor, thus, was making a wrongful gain by charging the toll, Wategaonkar submitted, adding that it was in contravention of the terms of its concession agreement.

A bench of justices A S Oka and R I Chagla directed the state to file its reply within three weeks.

In April last year, the toll for motorists on the Mumbai-Pune expressway was hiked by 18 percent in accordance with a government notification issued in 2004, which stated that the fee would increase by 18 percent every three years, starting 2005.

At the time, the toll for light motor vehicles was hiked from Rs 195 to Rs 230.

With agency inputs

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