Haryanas stance may take toll on Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway

Written by Kaushal shroff | Timsy Jaipuria | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 4 2014, 09:33am hrs
Even as the protracted court battle over the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway project seems close to resolution, some fresh irritants have cropped up, in what could delay a settlement between the IDFC-led consortium, NHAI, and the concessionaire, DS Constructions. Primary among the hiccups is a move by the Haryana government on Monday, seeking removal of the toll plaza at 42 km, leaving just one operational toll booth at 61 km.

The state governments concern is that a toll plaza at 42 km could cause inconvenience to commuters.

This is in stark contrast to the settlement scheme proposed by senior lenders earlier, as per which they have sought confirmation from NHAI of a May 2013 proposal. The proposal mandates substitution of the current concessionaire, DS Constructions, by another operator as well as leaving just one operational toll booth at 42 km.

Another application by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) concerning the practical difficulties faced by private citizens is also pending before the court. The court, for now, has asked the Haryana government as well as MCD to make their submissions on Friday.

Moreover, the road ministry has not gone on record accepting IDFC as an authorised lender.

Meanwhile, the concessionaire told the Delhi High Court that a draft consent order is already circulating between the parties and has sought additional time till Friday to submit its stand on the proposed consent order.

The matter will be resolved. It is just a matter of language (in the draft consent order) that needs to be resolved, the DS Constructions counsel said.

Sources told FE that the draft consent order being circulated among the parties is based on the earlier proposal and minutes of the meeting between the authority and senior lenders.

If the May 2013 proposal goes through, the legal and arbitration claims against the operator, Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity, the lenders and highway authority raised against each other will be considered as fully and finally settled. Besides, only the toll plazas at 42 km will continue to operate, whereas the other toll plaza at 24 km will be removed.

Further, claims amounting to R988 crore of DS Constructions shall be withdrawn and the lenders will also have to appoint a new operator for operation and management of the toll plaza, substituting the existing concessionaire with the consent of the highway ministry and the NHAI board. IDFC had also said that NHAIs liability would remain unchanged and would not be increased in any manner.

The Haryana government had, in July 2013, submitted an application seeking removal of two toll plazas at the Expressway or else face termination of the concession agreement on the ground of default with a one-time termination payment of R118 crore. The Haryana government had, in its application last year, said the two toll plazas have been causing inconvenience to the general public using NH-8, causing traffic jams and resulting in resentment among the public.

The dispute between NHAI, highway operator and the lenders has been going on for almost two years, where DS Constructions had earlier placed claims of R988 crore related to the project work, which it has now agreed to let go of. Earlier, IDFC had requested for more time to get all other lenders on board to take the settlement procedure forward.

In case the substitution happens, the new operator will take over the project, along with all other concessions and liabilities with respect to NHAI and the lenders, except the dues arising prior to the appointment of the IDFC consortium as a receiver of the project. The understanding between DGSCL and IDFC comes at a time when both NHAI and the highway ministry have refused to entertain any charges being raised by the developer and lenders.