Chennai: The Madras high court pointed out that though the Indian Tolls Act envisages collection of toll, the Panchayat authorities are also permitted to collect certain charges for using the places which are under their control. The court, however, pointed out that it should not lead to any collection of tolls by unauthorised and unscrupulous persons. Only licence holders are permitted to collect toll within the places earmarked for parking and other facilities, the court said.
Disposing of a petition filed by Om Sri Bhavani Amman Temple seeking a direction to the authorities to ensure that one GD Mayandi and his men do not collect parking charges from vehicles entering or passing through Periyapalayam village, Justice R Mahadevan said in the present case, it is alleged that there is illegal collection of toll charges and parking charges for the vehicles entering the municipal area, by this unauthorised person. In this connection, it is made clear that only the persons who have been appointed by the state/authorities under the relevant Acts are authorised to collect cess and other fees and no unknown/outside persons apart from the ones envisaged under the relevant Acts are allowed to carry out such collection, the judge added.
In its petition, the temple submitted that it is an ancient temple, visited by lakhs of devotees throughout the year. The annual festival of the temple is performed between July and October every year. During this period, the temple makes all arrangements for shelter, food, darshan, toilet facilities etc., The transport corporations also operate sufficient number of bus services to facilitate the transportation of devotees. The Commissioner of Ellapuram Panchayat Union Council earmarks certain places belonging to them for parking of vehicles on payment of charge and this was done by calling for tenders. T
hough the tender awarded to GD Mayandi came to an end in September 2008, he continues to illegally collect exorbitant parking charges from vehicles not only parked on the land belonging to the panchayat, but also from all vehicles entering the town of Periyapalayam. The amounts so collected do not go into the coffers of the Panchayat, the temple alleged.
Noting that the name of the Panchayat and temple authorities have not been mentioned in the receipts for payment for entry into Periyapalayam village, the judge said, “Often in Chennai suburban areas, it is found that many such unauthorised collections of toll fees is going on. Unauthorised persons without any authority and without any permission are collecting toll charges apart from the earmarked places. If any person refuses to give money, they are taken to task by them for getting the money.”
Pointing out that neither in the Tamil Nadu District Municipalities Act, nor in the Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Act or in the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act is it stated that the Municipalities can collect tolls for vehicles which are entering the area under its control, the judge said only in the Indian Tolls Act, 1851, as amended several times by the state government, can tolls be collected by the state, that too, by the prescribed procedures as per the Act....