In the absence of any legal prohibition, the establishment of a toll station cannot be questioned solely on the grounds that it is close to adjacent villages: Rajasthan HC
The High Court of Rajasthan ruled that in the absence of any legal prohibition, the establishment of Toll Plaza could not be challenged solely on the grounds that the Toll Plaza was in close proximity to adjacent villages and dhanis. In the absence of any statutory provision, for this reason alone, the location of Toll Plaza cannot be called illegal, the court added.
The court observed that the toll plaza in the present case is beyond the distance prohibited under Rule 8 of the Rajasthan State Highway Charge (Determination of Rates and Recoveries) Regulations 2015 and in the absence of violation of the governed statutory provisions, the establishment of Toll Plaza cannot be considered a violation of law solely on the basis of the violation of certain principles-based guidelines.
Acting Chief Justice Manindra Mohan Shrivastava and Judge Vinod Kumar Bharwaniwhile denying the motion, observed,
“We therefore come to the conclusion that, on the facts, compliance with the IRC guidelines was not mandatory, therefore, the present case where the location of Toll Plaza is governed by statutory provisions contained in the rules statutes of 2015 framed in the exercise of statutory powers under the 2014 act shall prevail and in the absence of statutory provisions under the law regulating the location of the toll, no condition being incorporated in either the announcement nor in the conditions of eligibility for the erection of the toll or in the concession agreement between the government and the concessionaire, the establishment of Toll Plaza cannot be considered illegal or contrary to law.”
Essentially, the PIL was filed to challenge the construction and operation of the toll station named Chomu Chandwaji Tollways at Kushalpura at Chomu Chandwaji SH-08 B. The petitioner, who claims to be a person of public spirit, alleged that the agreement for the construction of the toll booth violates provisions contained in the 2014 Act and 2015 Rules. The petitioner alleged that Toll Plaza is surrounded by a densely populated area of several villages and dhanis and that the authorities would not have not had to authorize its construction. The petitioner said that there are five adjoining townships and panchayats within a radius of 5 km and no permission has been obtained from Tehsildar and the sub-divisional. It is also stated that the toll plaza is located in Chomu district which is already surrounded by four other toll plazas
The petitioner has pleaded that Toll Plaza is in violation of Rajasthan Public Works Department standards which state that the distance of checkpoints/toll booths should be at least 1 km and that no checkpoint/toll booth toll would be installed within one kilometer of the fuel. stations/rest areas. Further, referring to the Indian Road Congress (IRC) guidelines, it was found that while establishing and operating the toll plaza at the disputed site, various guidelines were also violated as the toll plaza is located at a prohibited distance from the existing petrol pump. . It is also the grievance expressed in this petition that the collection of toll charges is at a rate which contravenes the rule prescribed by the 2015 rules.
The court noted that the focus was on the state circular issued by Chief Engineer PWD Rajasthan, Jaipur. The court also noted that the direction was issued before the enactment of the State of Rajasthan Highways Act 2014 and Rules 2015. Once the location of Toll Plaza is regulated by the statutory provisions contained in the Rules 2015, the Advance Circular cannot be used as a basis for asserting that the location of Toll Plaza is unlawful or contrary to the law.
The court said the claimant’s contention that for the purposes of the law the term “municipal area/local urban area” as used in Rule 8 of the 2015 Rules should be given a liberal interpretation to include Panchayat and the village area, as in the absence of anything in the 2014 Act and 2015 Rules in this regard.
Further, the court observed that the term “municipal or local area”, in the absence of such defined term under the 2014 Act or the 2015 Rules, will take its meaning from the provisions contained in the Act. on the municipality only and cannot be given or attributed any meaning other than that provided by the local laws of the State, namely the Municipalities Act.
It was added that there is no compelling reason for us to include the Panchayat area or the dhanis in the term “municipal or local area” for the purpose of establishing the toll plaza, such as the provides for Rule 8 of the 2015 Rules. While rejecting the petitioner’s claim, the court observed that if the petitioner’s argument is accepted, the provisions rendered will become wholly unenforceable as the national road on each side adjoins various panchayats, areas villagers and dhanis.
Furthermore, the court also rejected the claimant’s argument that the toll booth would endanger public safety if erected near various adjacent villages, on the grounds that there is no legal impediment of this. type under the 2014 Act or the 2015 Rules. The legal prohibition relates only to the distance between the toll plaza and the municipal area/local town area, the court added.
Further, the court held that the IRC guidelines are adopted recommendations for the establishment of gas pump outlets. The court also held that these guidelines are not statutory guidelines but only recommendations. The court said that section 2 thereof sets out the basic principles that the overriding consideration for the standards is to minimise, as far as possible, interference with the normal flow of traffic on the road by vehicles using the equipment and also ensuring safety. Therefore, these guidelines must be taken into consideration by state authorities and relate to national highways and not state highways, the court added.
The court also observed that none of the cases invoked by the petitioner is related to the establishment of a toll booth, but only relates to the establishment of petrol pumps/outlets. The cases cited by the petitioner concerned cases where the location of the fuel pump outlet was not governed by any legal provision and the eligibility conditions in the advertisement implicitly or expressly included compliance with the guidelines of the IRC, the court added.
The court found that vague pleadings had been made regarding the collection of toll charges in violation of the rates prescribed under the rules. The court noted that since 01.04.2018, all private vehicles have otherwise been exempted from the toll charge and it has been clearly stated that tractors, tractors with cart transporting agricultural products are also exempt from the toll charge . It was also felt that no specific material was placed in the petition to convince the court that the location of Toll Plaza endangers public safety.
Further, the court also noted that it considered the issue raised in this petition as to whether the location of Toll Plaza was contrary to the public interest, even though serious allegations against the petitioner were made by the defendants that the petitioner is not a law-abiding citizen and against him lawsuits have been filed for violation of the conditions of operation of the ration stores and against him a number of criminal lawsuits have been filed.
Adv. Sehban Naqvi appeared for the Claimant, while Senior Adv. Rajendra Prasad assisted by Adv. Ashish Sharma, AAG Rajesh Maharshi assisted by Adv. Udit Sharma, Adv. Krishna Verma for Adv. Sukriti Kasliwal appeared for the respondents.
Case title: Jagdish Prasad Meena vs. Rajasthan State
Quote: 2022 Live Law (Raj) 124
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