HC seeks govt reply on plea against toll on Mumbai-Pune Expressway

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The Bombay High Court sought a reply from the Maharashtra government on a plea filed by a local activist seeking that Mumbai-Pune Expressways contractor be restrained from collecting any toll from motorists on the stretch.

A bench of justices A S Oka and R I Chagla directed the state to file its reply within three weeks.

As per the petitioner, Praveen Wategaonkar, in 2015 the government had announced its decision to close 12 toll plazas across the state and to exempt light motor vehicles and the state transport (ST) buses from having to pay toll on select toll plazas.

Wategaonkar said in April 2015, the Maharashtra government also formed a committee to look into the feasibility of exempting light motor vehicles from paying any toll for use of the expressway.

In 2016, the committee submitted that as per the concession agreement between the state and the contractor, the latter had a right to collect up to Rs 1,362 crore by charging such toll.

It suggested that the government pay Rs 1,362 crore to the contractor and thus, exempt all vehicles from having to pay toll on the expressway.

However, while the government is yet to take a decision on the recommendation, the contractor has already collected about Rs 1,500 crore by way of toll.

The contractor, thus, was making a wrongful gain by charging the toll, Wategaonkar submitted, adding that it was in contravention of the terms of its concession agreement.