Hearing a bunch of PILs against toll being charged on incomplete and bad roads in various parts of the state, the Bombay High Court today asked the Maharashtra government to file an affidavit explaining its policy in this regard within two weeks.
A Bench of Justices S J Vajifdar and Gautam Patel also asked the state to spell out its stand whether it would continue to collect road tax on Pune-Shirur highway and other places despite incomplete projects and poor condition of roads.
The state has also been asked to explain why the contractors appointed by the government were collecting toll despite a letter written by Public Works Department (PWD) to stop levying such amount.
One of the PILs was filed by one Shashikant Changede against toll being charged on roads which are incomplete in Pune and Ahmednagar. The petitioner informed that on the Pune-Shirur road there were two toll nakas and government was not monitoring cash flow at one.
The other petition was filed against toll collection at Pune-Shirur highway despite bad conditions of roads. The high court had earlier directed the PWD Secretary and Chief Secretary to evolve a comprehensive policy in general to put in a place a regulatory mechanism. In this regard, the state was directed to file an affidavit.
However, the state government today informed the high court that they had not yet affirmed the affidavit and would do that soon.
According to PILs, the term of the contractor collecting toll at the Pune-Shirur highway was to expire on July 6, 2015 and as per the practice, the contractor was being given extension every three months till the period got over. The current period of three months was to slated to expire on December 31, 2013. Thereafter, it could be given further extension.
Ashutosh Kumbhkoni, a senior lawyer who has been appointed as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in this case, suggested today that in view of allegations raised in the PILs, the renewal of quarterly period for collecting the road tax for the next term beginning January 2014, should be allowed by the high court only after hearing all the parties.
The high court had earlier chided Maharashtra government for doing nothing about reducing or doing away with toll on incomplete road projects. The judges were miffed that despite assuring the court early this year that it shall pass benefits to commuters regarding collection of toll on incomplete roads, the government had not framed the policy on the issue.
If the state collects toll from private citizens, it is obliged to maintain the roads, the Bench had remarked. It had also observed that the government does not seem to have any established norms for dealing with situations where the contractors continue to collect toll on bad roads.