The Delhi Noida Direct (DND) flyway will remain toll-free with the Supreme Court refusing to vacate an Allahabad High Court order making the flyway toll-free The apex court also appointed an auditor to examine the accounts of the toll company to ascertain its cost and profit.
The Allahabad High Court had, in October, scrapped the toll levied on users of the DND flyway, that connects south-east Delhi with Noida across the Yamuna river.
The apex court ruling comes on a petition filed by the Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd (NTBCL), the special purpose vehicle promoted by project sponsor IL&FS to develop, construct, operate and maintain DND, against the high court order, but it has failed now
A bench of the Allahabad high court comprising Justice Arun Tandon and Justice Sunita Agrawal had considered several aspects of the case before ruling that NTBCL had ''recovered all reasonable returns'' on its investment, and was no longer entitled to collect toll.
There were frequent complaints that the toll – Rs 28 on cars – was unreasonable and too high.
As per the company's accounts, it should have been able to collect Rs2,339.6 crore in 2012, Rs3,448.9 crore in 2014, and over Rs5,000 crore in 2016.
The apex court bench of Justices J S Khehar and L Nageswara Rao also asked the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to verify the cost of the DND flyway project and submit a report before the apex court.
"We have requested the CAG to verify the cost of the project..." the bench said, adding, "We refuse to grant any relief."
The apex court had on 28 October refused interfere with the HC order restraining the company, saying it will pass directions after Diwali vacations.
On the toll collecting firm's plea for interim stay on HC order, the apex court bench headed by the Chief Justice had said, "You have only ten kms of highway and you claim that you have made a road to the moon. ... You have done well but not something (great)."
The firm had said the High Court did not take into account all aspects and submitted that factors like interest on construction cost, depreciation and maintenance expenses, which come to around Rs 12.5 lakh per day, have not been duly considered.
The order passed by the high court on a PIL by the Federation of Noida Residents' Welfare Association, on 26 October that no toll will be collected henceforth from those using the 9.2 km-long, eight-lane DND flyway, had brought cheers to millions of commuters.
The high court had held "the user fee which is being levied/realised is not supported by the legal provisions relied upon by the concessionaire (Noida Toll Bridge Company), Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (promoter and developer of the project) and Noida Authority."
The Supreme Court Bench had also earlier observed that the ''total cost of project can never be recovered and the bridge will never be free from levy of toll'', if the formula for calculation was allowed to continue.