Blank toll receipts stretch Delhi-Gurgaon expressway logjam, road min wants probe

Written by Timsy Jaipuria | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 26 2013, 16:46pm hrs
While the legal battle over the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway continues between the government, lender IDFC and the developer DS Constructions, the ministry of road transport and highways has received several complaints from commuters alleging that the developer is issuing blank toll receipts. The ministry, official sources said, has forwarded these complaints to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for necessary action.

The NHAI in March had issued a showcause notice to DSC for not depositing the entire toll collected in the escrow account as required. "The ministry has received numerous complaints regarding people getting blank toll receipts at the Gurgaon toll plaza and such a matter needs to be looked in and investigated," the ministry told the NHAI in a letter written by joint secretary (highways) Rohit Kumar Singh.

The matter came to light in April and the roads ministry has taken up the issue with the authority more than once. It, sources said, also attached one of the blank toll receipts it got from a complainant with the latest letter, asking the authority to inquire and find out the genesis of such blank toll receipts. The ministry asked the authority to take up the issue with the concessionaire, saying it is a clear violation of the concession agreement signed between the authority and the developer.

NHAI's March notice to DCS said: "In the last several days, the revenue collection is falling and the NHAI feels that the concessionaire is diverting the toll revenue instead of depositing it into the escrow account."

The authority also added that the concessionaire was also not promoting electronic tolling and monthly passes to the benefit of local traffic. With the increasing number of complaints, the government has made up its mind that it no longer wants the current developer to run the expressway.

Road transport minister Oscar Fernandez last week said that the government would make a concerted plea in the Delhi high court for an early decision.

The decision for joint representation by all wings of the central government and the Haryana government was taken in a high-level meeting between Fernandez, state CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, DSC and senior officials of the road ministry.

DS Constructions chief HS Narula is understood to have told the minister that the company is not interested in going for an out-of-the-court settlement.

A senior road ministry official privy to the meeting said the government also told the concessionaire that it had not met the MoU conditions signed last year but the concessionaire dismissed the charges, adding the government had not cooperated with it.

The issue is in the court since last two years now.

"We want an early decision because the public is suffering because of the delay in the decision and we going to strongly plead our case," Fernandez said.

FE in an earlier report said the IDFC-led consortium's R1,600-crore exposure to the expressway project is in trouble because the relevant loan agreement does not empower the lead lender to replace the over-leveraged concessionaire DSC - even in case of default.

The NHAI had contested the developer changing the lenders (taking much higher amounts of loans) without its consent although these loans were based on the future revenue streams of the expressway project.