The Rajasthan High Court has directed the respondents to incorporate specially-designed vehicles for handicapped persons in the exempted category of vehicles.
The Division Bench of Justice Sandeep Mehta and Justice Rajendra Prakash Soni allowed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed raising the issue of toll tax/fee being charged from persons with disabilities as defined under The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 at the toll plazas on State operated roads/highways.
The petitioners seeks a direction that as specially-designed vehicles of persons suffering from disabilities have been exempted from toll fee/user fee on the National Highways vide notification dated 08.06.2016 issued by the Road Transport and Highways Department, Government of India, the non-grant of such exemption on State Highways is arbitrary, discriminatory and violative of Fundamental Right to Equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.
B.R. Chahar, the counsel for the petitioner, urged that there is no logical explanation for the discrimination being practised in the matter of grant of exemption from paying toll fee/user charges to specially-designed vehicles for disabled persons on the State Highways in tune with similar exemption available on National Highways. He referred to the notification dated 08.06.2016 issued by the Central Government and the consequential orders whereby, either exemption has been permitted to such vehicles or it has been directed to reimburse the toll fee charged from such vehicles through a Fastag.
K.S. Rajpurohit, Additional Advocate General, representing the respondents, has filed a reply to the petition along with which, a copy of the notification dated 29.05.2015 issued by the Public Works Department under Section 102 of the Rajasthan State Highways Act, 2014, has been annexed. He urged that since such vehicles are not classified under the exempted category by virtue of clause 11 of the notification, the petitioners are not entitled to relief claimed.
The High Court gave its thoughtful consideration to the submissions advanced at bar and went through the notifications and orders placed on record.
The Court noted from the perusal of the notifications dated 08.06.2016 and the consequential communication dated 20.09.2016 that the Central Government has exempted specially-designed vehicles for disabled persons from levy of toll fee/user charges on the toll booths/toll plazas when such vehicles ply on the National Highways.
In this background, the High Court is of the firm view that similar exemption from payment of user charges/toll charges, has to be extended to the specially-designed vehicles for disabled persons on the highways constructed and maintained by the State of Rajasthan as well because the discrimination so existing in the two categories is clearly violative of the Right to Equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
“In this background, the writ petition is hereby allowed. The respondents are directed to incorporate the specially-designed vehicles for handicapped persons in the exempted category vehicles under clause 11 of the notification dated 29.05.2015 keeping in line with the corresponding notification/communication of the Central Government. Requisite exercise as directed above shall be completed within four weeks from today. The writ petition is disposed of in these terms,” the order reads.