Army personnel seek clarity on toll exemption

Representational image. File   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

There is confusion among the military fraternity over a recent circular by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which is in contravention to the existing exemption from toll fee for serving military personnel. Several veterans have expressed outrage over this move on the social media after several personnel reported instances of being charged toll since.

The NHAI issued a clarification dated December 16, 2019 on the guidelines on payment of user fee at toll plazas in the backdrop of the issue of FASTags. It clarified on the vehicles used for official purpose by the Ministry of Defence, including those that are eligible for exemption in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Toll (Army and Air Force) Act, 1901.

Referring to an earlier memorandum dated June 17, 2014, it stated that “exemption under Indian Toll (Army and Air Force) Act, 1901 from payment of user fee is available to the persons who are ‘on duty’ and does not pertain to retired personnel.” “No exemption is available on use of personal vehicle if it is not used for discharging any official purpose and duty even if it accompanies the said official,” the circular said, adding that the exemption was available only on production of pass as specified in the Indian Toll Rules, 1942.

The circular also has a list of exempted vehicles that includes the Chief of Staff holding the rank of full General or equivalent and the Vice Chief of the Army Staff and equivalent, gallantry medal awardees and Central and State armed forces in uniform including para-military and police.

Some instances have since been reported where Army personnel were asked to pay toll fee.

Col Mukul Dev, a serving officer from the Army’s Judge Advocate General branch, said on Twitter, “Please read Sec 2(l) of Army Act which clearly stipulates that an Army Personnel is deemed to be on duty, till such time he has not retired. Accordingly, traveling on Casual Leave (CL)/AL or furlough is also considered to be “On duty”. There are many judgements of Hon'ble Supreme Court on this.”

Col. Dev also stated that at para 1 of the letter dated January 03 2020 by the NHAI, a mention of the NHAI letter dated June 17, 2014 had been made. This June 2014 letter had been superseded by their own (NHAIs) letter of December 14, 2019.

In all the circulars that the NHAI issued in 2019, they were making a reference to their June 2014 circular. However, they were yet to cancel their circular of December 06, 2017 and hence this circular is in force, he added.

“There have been contradictory orders from the NHAI on this and this has to be clarified at the highest levels,” a serving officer observed.

Responding to a question from The Hindu on the issue, a senior NHAI official said the advisory was issued in consultation with the Law Ministry. “We are going by their advice,” he added.

Another official said the exemption is applicable only for official vehicles or those on official duty.

(with inputs from Jagriti Chandra)

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 12:13:44 PM |

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