HC seeks Centre’s response on plea asking banks to pay interest on FASTag collected money

The Delhi High Court has sought response of the NHAI and the Centre on a plea seeking to direct banks to pay interest to the authorities on the money collected by them with the issue of FASTag and minimum balance requirement on the card.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad issued notices to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRT&H) on an application which pleads that with the issuing of FASTag, thousands of crores of rupees have entered the banking system without any corresponding benefit either to the commuter community or to NHAI or MoRT&H.

The court granted four weeks time to the authorities to file their replies to the application and listed the matter for further hearing on August 10.

The application was filed in a pending petition that challenges a rule which compels vehicles without FASTag to pay double the toll tax. The petition contended that the rule was discriminatory, arbitrary, and against public interest as it empowers the NHAI to collect toll at double the rate, if paid in cash.

Petitioner Ravinder Tyagi, represented by advocate Praveen Agrawal, said in the application that a sum of more than Rs 30,000 crore has entered the banking system with introduction of FASTag facility.

The plea contended even if the Fixed Deposit rate of 8.25 per cent per annum is applied to this figure, every year NHAI or MoRT&H will gain over Rs 2,000 crore.

“At present this money is being utilised by the banks / financial Institutions free of cost and at the cost of the respondents (NHAI and MoRT&H). The interest of this money belongs to either the NHAI / MoRTH or commuters and deserves to be spent in the further development of road / highways / commuters benefits,” it said.

The application also sought to direct the authorities to create a separate fund in the name of ‘Commuters Welfare Fund’ from the income received from interest of FASTag.

FASTag is a device that employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly while the vehicle is in motion. FASTag is affixed on the windscreen of the vehicle and enables a customer to make the toll payments directly from the account which is linked to it.

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The high court had earlier issued a notice and sought response of the Centre and NHAI on the main petition which sought quashing of a provision of the National Highway Fees (Determination of Rates and Collection) Amendment Rules, 2020 due to which commuters without a FASTag on their vehicles are bound to pay double the toll tax.

The plea said these rules and the circular convert all toll lanes to 100 per cent FASTag lanes with the consequence that commuters without a functional FASTag are compelled to pay double the toll amount.

The petitioner, a lawyer, claimed he was compelled to install a FASTag device in his car because of the compulsion of paying double the toll in cash.

He said before installing the FASTag he used to pay double toll.

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