The Supreme Court Monday fumed over the National Highways Authority of India going back on its earlier position favouring the shifting of a toll plaza on the road from Panipat in Haryana to Jalandhar in Punjab by the project concessionaire.
Soma Isolux NH One Tollway Private Limited had sought the shifting of the toll plaza to complete the delayed project’s remaining 40 km stretch.
The apex court bench of Justice Gyan Sudha Misra and Justice Madan B. Lokur took exception to the turnaround in the stand of the highways authority as senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the company, read from the affidavit filed by the NHAI before the Punjab and Haryana High Court wherein it had categorically supported the shifting of the toll plaza.
“When your own affidavit justifies the shifting of the toll plaza then why are you opposing it now,” Justice Misra asked senior counsel Sandeep Seth, appearing for the NHAI.
As NHAI counsel said that much water had flown since then, Justice Misra “water may have flown, structures do not change”, adding that a river may change its course but that may not erase the fact of the existence of the river.
Taking to task the NHAI for orally saying something that was contrary to its stand in the affidavit before the high court, the court said it was very obvious that the authority wanted to snatch the project from the present concessionaire and give it to someone else.
Singhvi told the court that if they were permitted to shift the toll plaza then they would complete the remaining 40 km stretch of the Panipat-Jalandhar highway in nine months from the date of shifting.
In the last hearing of the matter June 7, the court asked the concessionaire Soma Isolux, which is executing the project on build-operate-and-transfer basis, to file an affidavit giving the shortest time schedule in which it would be able to complete the project.
As Singhvi pressed for the shifting of the toll plaza, NHAI counsel told the court that there was provision in the contract which permitted the shifting of the toll plaza.
The NHAI contested Singhvi’s contention that under the contract the concessionaire could move for the shifting of the toll plaza.
The court gave the NHAI time till Wednesday to file the portion of the contract which, according to it, barred the project concessionaire from shifting the toll plaza.
The court said this while hearing Soma Isolux’s plea challenging the high court order directing it to hand over to the NHAI the project which was behind schedule by one-and-half-year.
Soma Isolux told the court that it had completed construction of more than 70 percent of the highway.