By LE Desk

Mumbai, March 17: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday hinted that it may direct Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India to conduct a “thorough inquiry” into toll collection by a private contractor on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

This came after the High Court expressed its surprise that Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) could not recover the total capital outlay of the project, which was open for public use in 2004. As of today, the recoverable amount is close to Rs 22,000 crore.

The HC also asked the authority about the amount spent on construction and maintenance of the expressway. The court asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh and Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni to appear before it on Thursday, The Indian Express reported.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a PIL filed by activists Pravin Wategaonkar, Sanjay Shirodkar, Vivek Velankar, and Shrinivas Ghanekar challenging toll collection on Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

The petitioners argued that toll collection rights for the 15-year period from 2004 to 2019 were awarded to the company based on an upfront payment of Rs 918 crore, and the balance cost recoverable, as of August 2004, was Rs 3,632 crore.

The plea claimed that the company has collected nearly Rs 6,773 crore till July 2019, which is excessive and, therefore, the contractor has illegally retained Rs 2,443 crore that is due to MSRDC.

The MSRDC counsel submitted that while Rs 3,632 crore was recoverable in 2004, as of today, Rs 22,370 crore is yet to be recovered. In view of this, MSRDC was justified in extending the contract in 2020 for a period of 10.2 years, the affidavit stated.

“It is difficult to believe that you could not recover estimated capital outlay. Rs 3,632 crore has become Rs 22,000 crore,” the bench stated.

The court sought the presence of Singh and Kumbhakoni during the next hearing on Thursday and said, “After ASG and AG appear, we propose to direct CAG to conduct a thorough investigation and submit a report.”

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