A Right To Information (RTI) application filed by Advocate Hariom Jindal revealed that the total waiting time for any vehicle at a toll plaza cannot exceed three minutes.
This means that a person travelling on roads where tolls are collected can pass free of cost if they wait in queues for more than three minutes.
“I used to observe long queues at toll plazas and I had faced the issue myself multiple times. Many vehicles wait for a long time while travelling and toll collectors never disclose the correct schedule or the timings,” said Advocate Jindal to The Logical Indian.
He filed an RTI appeal in July last year and was replied to on August 29.
After clarifying his doubts about toll plazas, Advocate Jindal moved the Ludhiana Consumer Court to bring the public utility services provided by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Court.
Consumer Courts have the power to hear complaints against roads which are being used by a payment of fees
“This was a landmark judgement because National Highways come under the Union of India – Central government. In case you have a grievance against the central government, you can file a writ petition in the High Court under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution which gives the Courts the power to exercise jurisdiction on governments. For example, you faced an inconvenience even after paying a toll of Rs 200, you would have to go to the Court. Now, for mere Rs 200, not many file a case in the HC simply because the lawyer fees itself will be Rs 1 lakh minimum. Also, suppose someone is based in Gurgaon, they will not want to go all the to Chandigarh to file a case,” said Advocate Jindal.
“I lodged a complaint against the public utility services offered by NHAI for a fee. The toll collected is not a tax. We already pay taxes. This is a fee that we pay for a service provided to us. So when we pay a user charge, it means that we are making a consideration, hence this should come under the Consumer Court which is at the district level, hence the cost to hire a lawyer is much less than that of a High Court. So my contention before the HC was that issues pertaining to National Highways must be brought under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Forum. But even the forum wasn’t ready for such cases. So I fought and put forward my point. This was in 2017 itself. The district consumer forum finally gave a judgement on jurisdiction – Consumer Courts have the power to hear complaints against roads which are being used by a payment of fees,” he continued.
Because of Advocate Jindal’s appeals, it is now clear that any vehicle that waits in queues for more than 3 minutes at toll plazas does not have to pay the toll; and any inconvenience faced by travellers on roads where a fee is collected can be taken to the Consumer Forum.
Currently, he is also fighting a case against NHAI and SOMA – the contractor for building and maintaining roads. “The issue at hand is potholes and the matter is pending before the Court,” he said. He had filed the case after facing inconvenience when the tires of his car burst due to bad roads when he was travelling on the Delhi-Ludhiana Highway.
Article originally published on The Logical India