SC stays plea against ‘arbitrary’ toll tax

The Supreme Court Friday stayed proceedings on a petition against the Centre, states and the National Highway Authority of India for tolling four-wheelers even after the cost of a road is recovered.

The PIL, filed by Justice R S Verma and two others, is in the Rajasthan High Court. The high court has sought explanation from the Centre, the Rajasthan government and the NHAI as to why toll plazas were set up and toll rates fixed in an arbitrary manner.

It has also asked them to explain why NHAI provides a huge concession period of 20 to 30 years for charging a high rate of toll — that too without an assessment of whether such a concession is required — though cost of a project is usually recovered in 3 to 7 years.

In their PIL, the petitioners said, "It is beyond our comprehension as to how an additional tax in the name of 'toll tax' could be imposed when there is already a cess besides road tax and other prevailing taxes like service tax, income tax etc for the same purpose."

Citing an example, the petitioners said toll tax amounting to Rs 1,100 had been collected along the Jaipur-Delhi highway even before it was completed, yet the tax would continue till 2021. The plea requested the court to cancel or modify toll rates and quash "multiple taxation in the name of cess, road tax, toll tax".

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