Bench pulls up Madurai Corporation
The Madras High Court Bench here has deprecated the Madurai Municipal Corporation for having collected enhanced toll fee from the users of the Ring Road here between 2005 and 2010 without obtaining necessary approval from the State Government.
A Division Bench comprising Justice K. Suguna and Justice A. Arumughaswamy denounced the act of the Corporation while disposing of two writ appeals filed by Virudhunagar District Bus Owners Association and Madurai District Bus Owners Association against the collection of toll fee.
The Bench said: “The action of the Corporation in collecting toll fee without prior approval from the Government is a depreciable one… It is expected that at least in future, the Corporation will get prior permission from the Government well in time to enhance the collection of toll fee or approval of the same.”
Writing the judgement, Mr. Justice Arumughaswamy pointed out that the Corporation established a bus stand at Maattuthavani and laid the Ring Road extending to a distance of 27.20 kilometres on the northern part of Madurai in November 2000 in order to ease traffic congestion.
The road was laid at a cost of Rs. 47.35 crore raised through loans. Hence, a Government Order was issued by the Municipal Administration and Water Supply Department on October 23, 2000 permitting the Corporation to collect toll fee in terms of the Indian Tolls Act, 1851. The G.O. authorised the Corporation to levy toll on the motor vehicles using the ring road for 15 years with an annual increase at the rate of eight per cent for the first five years.
It stated that a decision would be taken later whether the annual increase could be continued at the same rate even after five years.
“However, after the expiry of five years, the second respondent Corporation has been collecting the enhanced toll fee which is against the provisions of law. No person is entitled to collect any amount from the public without any proper authority of law,” the Bench said.
It was only after the filing of the case by the bus owners association, did the local body approach the government for ratification and a G.O. was passed on January 31 this year ratifying the enhanced collection of toll fee from November 1, 2005 to October 31, 2010.
“Therefore, in our considered opinion, the collection of toll fee from the public cannot be held to be against the provisions of law. But before enhancing the toll fee, prior approval from the Government has to be obtained.
“Now, the Municipal Corporation has already applied to the Government for ratification and for extension of the period from November 1, 2010. Until it is approved, it is made clear that the second respondent is permitted to collect the toll fee as on October 31, 2005 with eight per cent increase,” the judges concluded.