National Highway Authority Restrained From Collecting Toll Tax
The Sindh High Court has restrained the National Highway Authority from collecting toll tax on the Indus Highway. The move comes after the authority failed to comply with the court’s November 2016 order.
Expressing concern over the high occurrence of accidents, the Sindh High Court ordered the federal government to catalogue accidents that occurred on the Indus Highway during the last five (5) years and investigate their causes. The bench pointed out that in light of the federal report regarding the accidents, the victims or their families may claim compensation or sue the National Highway Authority. The investigation has to be completed within three (3) months as per the order.
The bench also issued show cause notices to the chairperson of the Authority as well as the Inspector-General of Motorway Police, asking them to satisfy the court as to why contempt proceedings should not be started against them.
“…We direct the federal government to constitute a high-level committee comprising at least three officers; the province of Sindh shall be taken on board; Inspector General Police Sindh shall be a member of that committee,” the order reads. The committee will have to list all the accidents occurred on the highway, while also specifying the cause of each accident and pointing out faults in the road design and responsibility.
“… We are not aware of the fact that any compensation was paid to the victims or their families who lost their lives because of designing or over-speeding due to the improper arrangements,” the judges noted, adding that an improvement in maintenance of the highway and traffic regulation could not be brought about without acknowledging and overcoming these problems.
In November 2016, the Sindh High Court ordered the Authority and Motorway Police to depute four (4) motorway police vehicles and ambulances on the Jamshoro-Sehwan stretch of the Indus Highway within fifteen (15) days. But in each subsequent hearing, the court noted non-compliance of its orders.
The court stated that until and unless the facilities in the shape of ambulance service and motorway police are not available of the road specified, the Authority would not be competent to receive the toll tax. Accordingly, the National Highway Authority has been restrained from collecting toll tax unless the order passed by the court in November 2016 is complied with.
The Authority claimed that the order is being complied with as three thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine (3,869) posts will be filled in the National Highway Authority and the Motorway Police in 2017-18. However, the court noted that same excuses of having floated the summaries have been made time and again.
During the hearing, the Sindh High Court directed the Sindh government to submit a report about the highway policing mechanism for the highways in the jurisdiction of the provincial government.