London: The Indian High Commission in the UK has been ranked fifth in an assessment of foreign missions that have refused to pay London's traffic congestion charge over the years, owing over 4.4 million pounds in unpaid dues.
The list is topped by the US Embassy in London, which owes over 10 million pounds, followed by Japan, Nigeria and Russia, adding up nearly 97 million pounds in what TfL believes are "unpaid fees" by a majority of diplomatic missions from around the world.
According to 2016 figures released by Transport for London (TfL) last month, Indian diplomats allegedly owe them over 4.4 million pounds in accumulated unpaid dues since 2003.
The issue has remained unchanged for the past 12 years since the launch of the congestion charge in London, with TfL insisting diplomats are not exempt from paying it but the foreign missions maintaining that they do have exemption under the Vienna Convention.
"We believe that the congestion charge imposed by the UK authorities is not a service charge but a tax, which should be exempted under the Vienna Convention and therefore the Indian High Commission, like several diplomatic missions in London, do not pay the congestion charge," reads an Indian High Commission statement, a stand which remains unchanged over the past few years.
The charge, which applies to central London during peak times from Monday to Friday, was introduced in 2003 to alleviate congestion in the heart of London, with the money ear-marked for transport improvements in the UK capital. It currently stands at 11.50 pounds per day when a vehicle enters the designated congestion zone and failure to pay incurs a 130 pounds fine.
The Indian High Commission has purportedly incurred a total of 4,477,605 pounds since 2003, which would include fines.
"We and the UK government are clear that the Congestion Charge is a charge for a service and not a tax. This means that diplomats are not exempt from paying it. Around three quarters of embassies in London do pay the charge, but there remains a stubborn minority who refuse to do so, despite our representations through diplomatic channels," TfL said in a statement.
"We will continue to pursue all unpaid Congestion Charge fees and related penalty charge notices and are pushing for the matter to be taken up at the International Court of Justice," it added....