HC asks Maha govt stand on PIL on Mumbai-Pune expressway toll

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Mumbai, Mar 17 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni to appear for the Maharashtra government in a public interest litigation seeking that the toll collection on Mumbai Pune Expressway from August 2019 onwards be declared illegal.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni said the court might ask Comptroller and Auditor General of India to investigate the toll contracts for the expressway.

The observations came while the bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by four activists.

As per the PIL, the Motor Vehicle Tax Act, 1958 allows the state government to recover capital outlay plus toll collection expenses.

Toll collection right for a 15-year period, from August 2004 to August 10, 2019, was awarded for an upfront payment of Rs 918 crore to a private firm with an expected revenue of Rs 4,330 crore.

However, the actual cumulative toll revenue data of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway for the last 15 years until July 31, 2019, is Rs 6,773 crore, which is in excess of Rs 4,330 crore spent by the state government body.

A 2005 CAG report conformed such irregularities in tendering, the plea claims.

The toll collected after August 2019 was illegal, the petitioners said.

Advocate Praveen Wategaonkar, one of the petitioners in the case, told HC the project outlay cost had already been recovered.

Wategaonkar had earlier told the court the state had decided to continue collecting toll on the expressway till 2030 in the name of recovering project costs.

The HC then asked the MSRDC how was it possible that the total project cost for the expressway had not been recovered yet.

It then asked if CAG should probe the issue and directed that the Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni clarify the issue before HC.

It will continue hearing the matter on Thursday. PTI AYA BNM BNM