‘Highway toll tax higher than norms’
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A public interest litigation challenging the toll tax charged at barriers installed on the State Highway-24 was filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday. Without issuing notices to the Punjab government, the High Court has directed the law officer to look into the matter.
In May 2005, the State Highway-24 (Balachaur-Garshanker-Hoshiarpur-Dasuya) was given to M/s Rohan Raj Deep Tollaways Ltd. on build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis at a cost of Rs 102.01 crore. The petitioner alleged that the agency was now recovering the cost of project (investment) along with profit and interest by imposing a toll tax for the next 17 years.
The BOT services were started on March 15, 2007, immediately after the new government took charge in the state. These barriers were installed after every 28-30 kilometres on Garshankar (Chankoya), Hoshiarpur (Chhagran) and Dasuya (Man Garh) roads.
The petitioner stated that the fee charged at the barriers was in complete violation of all the rules prescribed in The National Highways (Rate of Fee) Rules, 1997, and was also much more than what was prescribed in the rulebook.
It was further submitted that the company had put up another barrier on the Ropar-Balachar Road at Kathgarh and had started charging fees on different vehicles.
The petitioner added that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) published its audit report on the awarding of State Highway No. 24, which stated that the Central Road Fund of Rs. 103.63 crore was available to the state, which was not availed by the state.
An objection was raised as to why this state highway was awarded to the company for Rs 102.01 crore when already enough amount was lying with the Central Road Fund, which later on due to non-availment was forfeited. The chief engineer of PWD replied that it was the prerogative of the state government to allot work on BOT basis. The CAG, however, did not accept this reply because the execution of road work on BOT basis had burden the public with toll tax, even though the state government had CRF credit which could have been availed.
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