State justifies levy of toll on ore-laden lorries

The government had, on October 15, 2009, issued orders proposing to levy a toll in respect of vehicles carrying (a) ores and minerals (b) granite or timer (c) ordinary sand, with the rates being Rs 1,000, Rs 500 and Rs 200 respectively.

But after the State budget for 2010-11, it issued fresh orders, dated July 1, 2010, restricting the levy of toll to Rs 500 per vehicle per trip, for carrying more than 16 tonnes of weight, excluding vehicles carrying machinery, irrespective of axle weight limit.

Several transport companies challenged the levy of toll contending that it was contrary to the provisions of the Karnataka Highways Act, 1964 and the Karnataka Highway Rules, 1965. They alleged that there was no rationale or logic behind the government order, differentiating between vehicles carrying iron ore and those carrying different quantity of laden weight.

The petitioners said the government does not have powers or jurisdiction to pass such orders. However, the State said it was empowered to collect toll under Section 48A of the Karnataka Highways Act, 1964, read with Section 17A of the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1957.

The Karnataka Highway Act (amendment) 2010, provides for levy and collection of toll from the users of highway. The State also clarified, in its objection, that iron ore tonnage weight had been taken into consideration for imposing toll, which is neither discriminatory nor arbitrary.

The State said it was also not open for the petitioners to contend that vehicles carrying 10 metric tonnes (MT) of iron ore ought to have been charged lesser toll and vehicles carrying 16 MT ought to have been charged higher amount.

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