The PIL claimed the contractor had already recovered the cost of the project as per its agreement details with the state authorities, and its continuation of toll collection amounts to a "wrongful gain".
There is no upper limit or a ‘cap’ on the amount of toll that can be collected from motorists on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court Wednesday.
A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice MS Karnik was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking direction to authorities concerned to stop collecting the toll from motorists using the expressway, claiming the contractor in-charge IRB Infrastructure Developers had already recovered the cost of the project.
The state government and IRB Infrastructure Developers dismissed the claim made by the PIL which was filed by four petitioners, including activist Pravin Wategaonkar.
“We have gone through all the records and there is no illegality in the toll collection. The contract does not impose a cap on the amount that can be collected as toll or the number of years for which such toll can be collected,” government lawyer Abhinandan Vagyani said.
The PIL claimed the contractor had already recovered the cost of the project as per its agreement details with the state authorities, and its continuation of toll collection amounts to a “wrongful gain”.
Wategaonkar told the bench that as on June 1 this year, the IRB Infrastructure Developers had collected Rs 1,400 crore more than the anticipated amount through the toll collection.
IRB counsel Janak Dwarkadas told the bench that the petitioners were ill-informed and that the contractor was not making any illegal or wrongful gains.
He said the IRB had secured the contract for maintaining the expressway and has been collecting the toll from motorists through a transparent and competitive bidding process.
“I (IRB Infra) paid Rs 918 crore to the state in lieu of the contract and the interest from that money is going to the public exchequer. I also spent money on the maintenance of the expressway, and on providing emergency security and health facilities along the expressway,” Dwarkadas said.
“While we had estimated to earn a certain amount from the toll collection, and projected that figure in the contract, there is no clause in the contract that puts a cap or an upper limit on such toll collection,” he said.
IRB’s argument was supported by the state government which told the bench that it had not imposed any upper limit on the toll collection amount.
Vagyani also cited a previous affidavit filed in the case by the state Public Works Department in August this year stating that the contractor had neither made any wrongful gains nor had it breached any terms of the contract with the government.
The bench has now directed IRB Infrastructure Developers to file an affidavit clarifying its stand and putting its submissions on oath.
The bench also directed that the infrastructure firm make its stand clear on Wategaonkar’s request for making the Enforcement Directorate (ED) a party to the case.