The DND (Delhi-Noida Direct) flyway will remain toll-free for commuters as the Supreme Court Friday declined to let the toll company collect cess until their accounts were examined to conclude profit or loss.
The court added that it will decide on referring the issue of calculation of toll collected so far to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) or any other independent auditor, so as to ascertain the company’s claim that it has not attained the Internal rate of return (IRR) till date. IRR is a metric used in capital budgeting to ascertain the profitability of potential investments made by a company.
A bench led by Chief Justice T S Thakur observed that the Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd should not argue as if they have built “a road to the moon” and wait for the court order on scrutiny of financial accounts post the Diwali break.
“Let the interim arrangement continue. What is the problem if people use it without paying the toll until we decide a credible mechanism to check your accounts? We can extend your period of collecting toll under the contractual arrangement if you are found to be correct but for now, we will not pass any order on allowing you to collect it,” the bench told senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the company.
The bench said the Allahabad High Court has made the DND toll-free on the basis that the company has already recovered cost and made profit. But since the company disputes this, a reliable method of calculating financial returns would have to employed by a specialised agency or individuals, said the court.
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When Singhvi repeatedly assailed the High Court order, seeking an interim stay on it, the bench retorted: “You have constructed only 10 km of highway and you claim as if you have made a road to the moon… You have done well but not something (great).”
Singhvi argued that the Noida Toll Bridge (NTBCL) is a company limited by shares and listed with stock exchanges here and abroad including London, and permitting it to collect toll for one or two more months would cause no harm to anyone.
“The balance of convenience is in our favour as I have been collecting toll for the last 15 years. If tomorrow it is held that I have the right to collect toll, then we cannot go on chasing vehicles for the past toll,” he said.
To this, the bench said: “If we hold otherwise, then will you chase vehicle owners to return the money collected? You don’t lose much and it is only in terms of time you may lose, but if you succeed, you will get extra time.”
At the outset, the bench said it wanted to know about the expenses incurred and the “permissible return” the firm wished to get back from the Delhi-Noida Direct (DND) flyway.
Referring to the terms of contract and accounting details with regard to the flyway, Singhvi 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 comes to around Rs 12.5 lakh per day, have not been duly considered. He also complained that the High Court has restrained them from collecting toll but says they would have to maintain the flyway till the expiry of the 30-year contract.
On its part, NOIDA Authority refrained from taking any stand on the issue, saying it has produced all the records before the court and would comply with any order that is made.