The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday declared the Noida DND as toll free. The flyway connects Delhi on the west bank of the Yamuna with Noida and East Delhi. A division bench comprising Justices Arun Tandon and Sunita Agarwal passed the order while allowing a public interest litigation filed by the Federation of Noida Residents’ Welfare Association. The PIL, which was filed in 2012, had challenged the “levy and collection of toll in the name of user fee by Noida Toll Bridge Company”.
The high court had on August 8 reserved its judgement on the plea. In a more than 100-page judgement, the court 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 the Noida Authority.”
It 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 the UP Industrial Development Act”. The court 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 31.03.2014 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 01.04.2014 and 30.09.2016 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 high court said.
In the past, it has witnessed several protests seeking scrapping of the toll following allegations that the operator has already made profits. In fact, earlier this year in August, members of Janhit Morcha and several Residents Welfare Associations (RWAs) of Noida demanding abolition of toll tax on Delhi-Noida-Delhi (DND) flyway, forcibly opened the expressway for vehicles for free.
The protesters, led by BJP leader and founder of Janhit Morcha, Nawab Singh Nagar, had also launched an indefinite protest in support of their demand to make the DND flyway — expressway connecting the national capital and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh — toll free.
At that time, Nagar had said their aim is to make DND toll free, while claiming that the protest is not politically motivated. The DND toll plaza management had earlier said they have an agreement for 30 years to operate the toll.
Meanwhile, in an interview to IANS, DND Flyway Director Monisha Macedo had said that the contract for operating the flyway can even be extended for two more years if it does not earn profits within that time frame. Macedo said they are trying to recover not only the cost of construction, but also earn a return out of it.
(With PTI and IANS inputs)