Puri asks officials to revisit provision of Metro Act to ensure no metro properties can be attached
New Delhi: Asserting that Delhi Metro is the lifeline of the national capital and adjoining regions, Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has directed officials to revisit a Metro Railways Act provision to ensure no properties or bank accounts of the metro can be attached ever.
The noting was made by Puri in the document attached in an additional affidavit filed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in the Delhi High Court on March 3.
He refused to give permission to attach properties of Delhi Metro, saying it has become the lifeline of Delhi and the National Capital Region with the livelihood of lakhs of people depending on it.
This comes days after the Delhi High Court asked the Centre to decide on the issue of granting sanction for attaching moveable and immovable assets of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for paying the unpaid amount of arbitral award to Reliance Infrastructure-promoted Delhi Airport Metro Express Private Limited (DAMEPL).
The minister said the Delhi Metro meets the commuting needs of almost 60 lakh people of Delhi-NCR on a daily basis.
“The Central government is being asked to give sanction to attach the properties of DMRC to pay a company which abandoned/deserted the services of the airport metro line in the first few years of a 30-year contract,” the minister said.
He said that any adverse outcome leading to a situation where the public utility grinds to a standstill could lead to a serious law-and-order problem across the length of the metro network of nearly 400 kilometres.
“I also direct the division to revisit section 89 of the Metro Act, 2002, and amend the same to make it absolute, so that no attachment of its properties or bank accounts or any assets or operations can ever be carried out,” Puri said.
In his separate noting in the document attached to the affidavit, the secretary in the ministry Manoj Joshi said, “Given the background of the case and in view of public interest, we should not agree for sanction attachment of assets of DMRC.”
On February 27, the court asked the Centre to decide on whether it proposes to grant sanction for the attachment of movable and immovable assets of DMRC for paying the arbitral award.
Earlier, the court had noted the total amount of the award with interest till February 14, 2022, was Rs 8,009.38 crore. Out of this, a sum of Rs 1,678.42 crore has been paid so far by the DMRC and Rs 6,330.96 crore is still due.
On February 17, the high court issued notices to the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and the Delhi government — the two essential stakeholders in the DMRC — to apprise it of how the unpaid arbitral award will be paid.
The two governments were impleaded as parties in the execution proceedings.
It had asked the Centre and the AAP government to make an endeavour to speedily resolve the impasse over the unpaid arbitral award, saying there was a need to protect the Delhi Metro which constitutes the lifeline for the residents of the national capital.
DMRC had informed the high court that despite making requisite efforts, the two stakeholders have been unable to arrive at a consensus on the ways and means by which the amount payable under the award may be liquidated.
In January, the DMRC had told the court it has requested the Centre and the city government for paying over Rs 3,500 crore each as interest-free subordinate debt for repayment of the unpaid arbitral award.
It had said that though this step of interest-free subordinate debt lay more financial burden on the Delhi Metro, the less bothersome option of the issue of equity shares which was explored earlier failed to materialise.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for DAMEPL, had said that in light of the position as it prevailed, the court would be justified in lifting the corporate veil of the corporation and proceeding further against the stakeholders for the execution of the award which undisputedly has attained finality.
The DMRC had informed the court that meetings were held with the Centre, the Delhi government and other stakeholders to discuss the modalities for payment of the balance arbitral award to DAMEPL.
The metro rail had said that if any adverse orders were passed against it at this point of time, millions of commuters will be simply told they cannot use the Delhi Metro.
On March 10 last year, the high court had directed the DMRC to pay the over Rs 4,600 crore arbitral award along with interest to DAMEPL in two equal instalments within two months.