On 20/06/2003, the Government of NCT of Delhi through its the then Commissioner (Transport) entered into a “Concession Agreement” with M/s Shonkh Technologies International Limited (STIL) in accordance with which the latter was assigned the work of supplying to vehicle owners Vehicle Registration Certificates in Smart Optical Cards at a cost of Rs.370/- per Card to be borne directly by the vehicle-owner concerned. The Smart Optical Card was required to consist of (i) Microprocessor based Chip of minimum 4 KB capacity and (ii) Optical Memory of minimum of 1.5 MB capacity.
2. As per the guidelines laid down by the Central Government, it would have been sufficient to provide for a Smart Card with a Microprocessor based Chip of 4 KB capacity, but the Government of NCT of Delhi consciously decided, as a matter of policy, to go for a Smart Optical Card with a larger capacity. In the words of the then Special Commissioner (Transport), this was to give the advantage “of recording tax records, Permit records, photographs of owners / drivers, finger-prints, challan records, etc.”, some of which features, according to him, would also meet “the directions of various courts including the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.”
3. The aforesaid “Concession Agreement” dated 20/06/2003 referred, inter alia, to the Government of NCT of Delhi having issued on 17/06/2003 a Draft Notification to bring about certain amendments in the applicable laws, rules and regulations governing the registration and issue of Vehicle Registration Certificates. It also referred to the action to be taken when the final notification of the proposed amendments would be issued.
4. The relevant rules were eventually amended vide Official Gazette Notification No. F. 1(159)/Tpt/CB/98-99/3539 dated 26/02/2004 to provide, inter alia, that every application for grant of vehicle registration certificate, etc. shall be accompanied by a fee of rupees one hundred and seventy, in addition to the fees prescribed under rule 81 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, etc. The additional fee of Rs. 170/- to be so levied was meant to cover expenses for incorporating in the Smart optical Card information about the previous details of tax record of cardholder, his past history of accidents, biometrics, etc., as specified in detail in PART B of the aforesaid Notification dated 26/02/2004.
5. The foregoing account is based on the information obtained on behalf of SPI from the Transport Department of the Government of NCT of Delhi under the Right to Information Act 2005. The information so obtained on behalf of SPI further reveals that:
(i) M/s Shonkh Technologies International Limited (STIL) have during the period from the date the job was awarded to them up to 31/03/2013 issued 53,77,993 Vehicle Registration Certificates in Smart Optical Cards. For this purpose, the vehicle owners would have paid to the said firm an aggregate sum of Rs.1,98,98,57,410.00 @ Rs.370.00 per Card. This includes more than Rs. 91.42 Crore paid on account of “incorporation” of additional information as specified in PART B of the Government of NCT of Delhi’s Official Notification No. F.1(159)/Tpt/CB/98-99/3539 dated 26/02/2004 by which the relevant rules were amended;
(ii) However, none of the 53,77,993 Vehicle Registration Certificates in Smart Optical Cards issued till 31/03/2013 contains the additional information referred to in PART B of the aforesaid Notification dated 26/02/2004, for which the vehicle owner was made to shell out an additional fee of Rs.170/- per Card. In fact, the Government of NCT of Delhi had even put in place arrangements for collecting the requisite additional information from the departments concerned nor acquired any integrated software to store such information;
(iii) The vehicle owners have thus been overcharged to the extent of Rs.170/- per Card. On the basis of 53,77,993 Cards having been issued as on 31/03/2013, the aggregate sum so overcharged amounts to more than Rs. 91.42 Crore;
(iv) The rate of Rs. 370/- per Smart Optical Card charged by M/s STIL would include not only the additional space created for storing this information but also the charges for transcribing to the Card at the initial stage itself the additional information referred to in Part B of the Notification dated 26/02/2004. Considering that the agency has quoted a fee of Rs.10/- per subsequent additional Entry, the illegal benefit extended to the firm amounts to more than Rs.5.37 Crore even if it is assumed that the additional information to be incorporated involved one single Entry alone!
6. SPI accordingly wrote to the then Chief Minister, Delhi vide letter dated 21/10/2013 that ends of justice would be met if the instructions to the following effect were immediately issued to the authorities concerned:
(a)The levy of additional fee of Rs. 170/- per Vehicle Registration Certificate from the new vehicle owners is stopped forthwith till arrangements are put in place to incorporate in the Certificate the additional information referred to in Part B of the Govt. of Delhi’s Official Gazette Notification dated 26/02/2004;
(b) Each of the 53,77,993 vehicle owners who have been issued Vehicle Registration Certificates in the Smart Optical Cards till 31/03/2013 are refunded an amount of Rs.170/- per Card they were made to shell out for incorporation of an information which was never transcribed in the Card; and
(c) The matter is thoroughly probed, especially, in regard to the casual manner in which it was decided to go for a ‘smart optical card’ in place of much cheaper ‘smart card’ when no arrangements existed nor were made to collect in an organised manner the additional information referred to in PART B of the aforesaid Notification dated 26/02/2004 for which each Card-holder was levied an additional cost of Rs. 170.00 per Card7.
SPI accordingly requested the then CM to issue appropriate instructions in the matter. It was also clarified that the observations made above were not same as contained in para 188.8.131.52 of Chapter 4 of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India’ s Audit Report (Civil), Delhi for the year 2008-09. Unfortunately, nothing in the matter has been heard from the Government of Delhi.