Toll operator states that Supreme Court cannot force the collection of pollution cess

The contractor in charge of collecting toll from goods vehicles entering Delhi has asked the Supreme Court to take back its October 9th order that imposes environmental compensation cess or ECC on trucks using the roads of the capital to journey into other states.


Senior advocate Shyam Divan appeared for the contractor and spoke to a bench of Chief Justic H L Dattu and Justices Amitava Roy and S K Singh, stating the order violates the fairness principle as cess was ordered to be collected by the contractor without any hearing involved. Additionally, there is an agreement between the contractor and the South Delhi Municipal Corporation which is the nodal agency for municipal tax collection from trucks at 120 entry points. This states that a fixed amount has to be deposited every month irrespective of total collections. Divan said how the contractor wishes to exit the arrangement as it will be impossible to implement the court order and its humungous obligations.


According to him, the direction for collection of additional levy by the apex court post the municipal corporation’s notice would be a violation of the rights of the contractor since it amended the existing contract without any party consenting to the same. Upon obligations being placed on any individual, he possesses the right to be heard on grounds of fairness.


According to Divan, if the South Corporation could not have unilaterally changed the agreement text, it was unfair of the Supreme Court to do the same without giving a hearing to the contractor in question. The power bestowed under Article 142 does not allow for overriding of fairness and other procedures. According to Amicus curiae, Harish Salve, whose application had led to the ECC of INR 1, 300 on big trucks and INR 700 on light commercial vehicles, stated that the contractor was actually misleading the court in spite of provisions mandating him to collect any additional levy that municipal authorities would impose in future.


The matter has been posted for hearing on Friday. However, the Supreme Court did express unhappiness relating to the non collection of ECC till the 6th of November even though it had already directed the implementation of the October 9th order from the 1st of November.


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