Prashant Burge from Karnataka is like any of us but, with one difference. An ordinary citizen who used the Right to Information (RTI) act to expose the excess toll collection by a toll collecting agency and pushed the National Highways Authorities of India (NHAI) to recover Rs 1.8 crores of public money.
Hattargi Toll Plaza is part of the National Highway 4 (NH4) and is on the Karnataka – Maharashtra Border. This toll plaza is at 537 kilometer and is authorized to collect toll fee for a stretch of 22km between 515 and 537 kilometers. The approved toll rates as on date are (w.e.f 01st April, 2014) are
|Type of vehicle||Single Journey||Return Journey|
|Upto 3 Axle Vehicle||65||105|
|4 to 6 Axle||125||185|
|7 or more Axle||125||185|
According to NHAI revision of rate circular, the toll fee for a Light Motor Vehicle (Car/Jeep/Van) is Rs 15 for a single journey and Rs 30 for return journey for a stretch of 22 kms. The toll collecting agency was charging Rs 20 for single journey & Rs 40 for return journey. They were collecting 33% more than the approved fee.
Prashant Burge filed an application under the RTI act with NHAI seeking the following details
- Present fee rate for car/jeep/van (LMV) for one way and return trip at Hattargi user fee plaza
- Total amount collected from 16.11.2012 for the same
- Reasons for collecting Rs.20 & Rs.40 when it should have been Rs.15 & Rs.30 for one way and round trip respectively, etc.
NHAI not only had to provide information to Prashant, but also conducted a surprise check based on his application. NHAI conducted a surprise check on 26.03.2013 and it was found that some car/jeep/van and LMVs were being charged Rs.20 and Rs.40 for single and return journey. NHAI informed the same to the Central Information Commission (CIC) during the hearing of a complaint filed by Prashant. They said that corrective measures were taken immediately and penalty proceedings have also been initiated in this regard.
NHAI also stated that the issue of imposing penalty for excess collection toll fee by toll collecting agency has been taken up with NHAI Head quarters and an amount of Rs.1.827 crore has been recovered for the same. The excess amount of toll fee collected by the agency has also been refunded to NHAI by the toll collecting agency.
The CIC noted that Prashant’s application not only led to the recovery of the amount of 1.827 Crore along with interest to the NHAI but notice boards came up on all toll booths, displaying that the excess user fee of Rs. 5/- can be collected by the passengers, after producing proof of identification and excess fee charged. The CIC appreciated Prashant for taking up an issue of public interest and using RTI for greater public good.
Let’s draw some inspiration from Prashant.
PS: The CIC order notes the authorized fee as Rs 15 & Rs 35 while it is actually Rs 15 & Rs 30 according to NHAI.