Traffic nightmare on Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway to be over

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 20 2014, 02:48am hrs
In a big relief to travellers on Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, toll plazas in 12 of the 16 lanes, which had been causing huge traffic snarls on it, will be dismantled as the legal dispute over the plazas ended today under the supervision of the Delhi High Court.

The High Court today recorded the consent order in terms of tripartite settlement arrived at among NHAI, Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Ltd (DGSCL) and lead financier IDFC.

The terms of the settlement, recorded by Justice Manmohan Singh in the consent order, would lead to dismantling of toll plazas 12 out of total 16 toll lanes on the Expressway.

The court, however, concurred with the plea of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) that South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and SMS Infrastructure Limited, which has been awarded a contract for three years by the civic body, can

be allowed to use remaining four toll plazas for levying entry tax from commercial vehicles coming to Delhi.

"...this court is inclined to accept the settlement arrived between the three parties, namely, NHAI, IDFC Ltd and DGSCL, as applicant (SDMC) is not a party to the agreement; its independent petition is also pending.

"Thus, the prayer made in the application SDMC for its impleadment as respondent cannot be accepted, coupled with the fact that NHAI has agreed to provide four lanes of the toll plaza, as discussed earlier, to the applicant to charge

the toll tax from the commercial vehicles. The NHAI is also ready to cooperate with SDMC who can create its infrastructure for the purposes of collecting toll tax," the order said.

As per the settlement terms, DGSCL, which was operating the toll plazas, shall be "discharged of all claims, liabilities and obligations, existing and future, under the Concession Agreement dated 18th April, 2002, the Rupee Loan Agreement dated 9th September, 2010 and under the MoU dated 18th September, 2012 "The said liabilities and obligations are hereby taken over and assumed by IDFC (on behalf of the senior lenders) on terms set out in the Bilateral Agreement between DGSCL and IDFC ...and NHAI consents thereto subject to no liability coming on to NHAI due to the said bilateral agreement."

The tripartite agreement said no toll or user fee shall be collected from "km 24 toll plaza and the said toll plaza shall be dismantled."

IDFC, the lead financier of the toll project, has agreed to pay Rs 24.65 crores to DGSCL as per the terms of the settlement.

IDFC informed the court that it has already issued demand drafts of Rs.8.85 crores to DGSCL and the outstanding amount is Rs.15.80 crores.

"The Senior Lenders (IDFC) unconditionally undertake to pay to DGSCL Rs 15.80 crores by way of demand draft on or before 28th February," the court noted in the order. The court also dealt with "liabilities and obligations" of NHAI and referred to the terms of the settlement. "It is hereby clarified that upon payment of Rs 24.65 crores as stated in Clause 1.2 (a) above and Rs 3.85 crores as stated in Clause 1.3 above, the Senior Lenders/Selectee (IDFC) shall not be liable for any other third party liability pertaining to the Project for the period prior to passing of the Consent Order and for any employee severance payment to the employees of DGSCL, except the liabilities/obligations relating to NHAI, labour cess of Rs 4.5 crores paid by NHAI, MCD and taxes relating to payments to NHAI and MCD as provided in clause ...," it said.

The court termed as "infructuous" and disposed of the plea of Haryana that the toll plazas be removed as they caused traffic snarls and public resentment.

"Now, since the disputes between the three parties have been resolved, the abovementioned applications have become infructuous and the same are disposed of as such," it said. The Transport Ministry, in its release, has also quoted from the terms of the settlement recorded by the High Court.

"The Concessionaire (DGSCL) withdraws his claim of Rs 988 crore against NHAI and the concession passes on to the lenders without this claim. NHAI is recognizing the Financial Institutions as the Senior Lenders for the project at the debt

as would have been outstanding to the lenders led by SBI which is Rs 1142 crore.

"Senior Lenders are taking over the Project from today (19.02.2014) as Receiver and will bring in a new Concessionaire (Selectee) within 90 days," the release said.

The central government also said "Sirhol toll plaza at Km. 24 shall be removed and the user public will not have to pay toll for commuting between Delhi and Gurgaon.

The lenders or the substitute concessionaire are allowed to collect toll only at km.42 Toll Plaza (Kherki Dhaula) by combining the rates at Km.24 Toll Plaza and Km.42 Toll Plaza, but local traffic rates and discounts are the same as earlier applicable at Km.42 Toll Plaza.

"The withheld increase in the toll rates on account of escalation/ WPI as provided in the Concession Agreement is now allowed. While there will be no extra burden on the user public between Delhi-Jaipur (through traffic), the user public between ManesarGurgaon may avail the discounts available to the local traffic (50% for personal vehicle and 34% for commercial vehicle) by taking a pass for 30 days with 40 trips."

NHAI and DGSCL had been embroiled in a bitter legal battle ever since the former issued a termination notice to the latter over frequent complaints of inordinate delays at the toll plaza.

NHAI also found irregularities in the manner in which DGSCL raised loans from IDFC and other financial institutions.

DGSCL had filed a case in the high court against NHAI andIDFC Ltd under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act seeking to restrain them from acting upon the show-cause notice by which concession agreement was sought to be terminated.