The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the DND flyway operator to display advertisements on the Noida side of the highway linking Delhi and Noida after signs erected by the company were removed by the Noida authority for no -presumed payment of license fees.
The company in question – Noida Toll Bridge Company Limited – has relied on revenue from advertisements to maintain the 9 km long road, of which only 2.2 km falls under the jurisdiction of the Noida authority. After the palisades were destroyed, the company went to the Supreme Court claiming that it had no revenue to maintain the roads and that it should be allowed to erect palisades. He also requested a restraining order from any coercive action by the Noida authority.
No tolls are charged on this stretch after the Allahabad High Court on October 26, 2016 prevented the company from collecting the toll on a petition filed by the Federation of Residents Welfare Association of Noida. The company had filed an appeal against this order, which is still pending before the High Court. This request has been moved to this petition.
A panel of judges L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai agreed to allow the company’s application on an interim basis until it accepts the main appeal in March. The court allowed the company to erect palisades on the Noida side of the DND flyway on payment of a license fee to the Noida authority at the rate of ₹125/ square feet per month to deposit in advance. The Court clarified that this was an interim arrangement made in the interest of the maintenance of the road.
Representing the company, Senior Solicitor Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the sole purpose behind the action of the Noida Authority was to irreparably damage his client’s financial assets and negate his continued viability as a business in activity.
“This is a completely heinous act. It should not be done by any public authority. In 2010, the charges applicable to us under Noida’s advertising policies were ₹50/square foot which was increased to ₹125/square foot in 2013, which we paid on condition. Now, by letter dated December 31, 2018, the license fee to display advertising along the DND Flyway has been retrospectively increased to ₹300/square foot. This matter is pending arbitration which is also suspended.
Lead Attorney Ravindra Kumar, who represented the Noida Authority, objected to the application saying the company had failed to pay license fees since 2010 and was earning generously revenue from the Delhi side of the DND Flyway, which was sufficient to maintain the roads.
“The right of palisade was not part of the concession contract. Since April 1, 2019, they no longer have authorization. The arbitral tribunal is not concerned with this issue,” Kumar said.
However, being an interim arrangement, the court clarified that its order will not create any equity for any party.
The company, represented by law firm Karanjawala & Co, told the court that its obligations regarding the operation and maintenance of the bridge under the concession contract required constant maintenance of the road, in addition to make the necessary arrangements for traffic and security arrangements that necessitated day-to-day expenses. The company produced audited balance sheets to show the financial strain on the company due to the general economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.