The Bombay High Court asked the Maharashtra government to decide by September 6 whether the toll collection on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway should continue.
A division bench of Justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla was hearing public interest litigations (PILs) filed by four activists, seeking that the right of the contractor Mhaiskar Infrastructure to collect toll on the expressway be revoked.
The contractor firm has recovered the cost of the expressway construction project as per its agreement with the government and yet continues to collect toll, making “wrongful gains”, the PILs said.
The court also asked the government to look into any violation of terms of agreement in the toll collection process.
“The state government will have to apply its mind as it also has to keep the larger public interest in mind. The issue concerns public funds and hence it is the government’s obligation to ascertain if there were any breaches or violations (of agreement),” Justice Oka said.
The government shall take a decision by September 6 as to whether the toll collection should stop entirely, or whether only light motor vehicles should be exempted, and whether there was any violation of the agreement, the court said.
The government shall take the decision after the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) submits a report on these issues, and also take into consideration recommendations of a state-appointed committee, it said.
The bench also noted that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), which had initiated an inquiry into the petitioners’ allegations in July last year, closed it as no case was made out.
The next hearing will be on September 7.
According to the PILs, the contractor has already recovered the Rs 2,869 crore it was entitled to and is now making “wrongful gains” by continuing to collect the toll.
In March last year, the petitioners had complained to the ACB, seeking action against government officials for failing to revoke the contractor’s right to collect the toll even after the company had recovered the stipulated toll income.
When the ACB did not take any action, they moved the high court.