The possibility of an early settlement of the dispute over the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway has receded with the IDFC-led lenders’ consortium telling the Delhi HC the concessionaire was employing stalling tactics, report Kaushal Shroff and Timsy Jaipuria in New Delhi. The next hearing is on Monday and all parties have been told that if a settlement is not reached by then, arguments will resume — in which case matters could drag on.
Getting a settlement is critical for the IDFC-led consortium since, if the project is terminated, the consortium stands to lose everything as the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which gave out the concession for the expressway, has not yet recognised the consortium as the designated lenders to the project. NHAI chairman RP Singh told FE, “If the settlement does not happen, we have asked the court to allow NHAI to terminate and take over the project as per the MCA (model concession agreement).”
IFDC’s counsel Harish Salve told the court that the consortium had agreed to write off R400 crore of debt owed by the concessionaire DS Construction’s Delhi Gurgaon Super Connectivity (DGSCL) and, in addition, also pay off certain dues including R16 crore payable to NHAI and the MCD and another R15 crore due to other parties including DGSCL employees. Salve said the consortium had already agreed to the proposal to remove the toll gates at the Delhi-Gurgaon border despite the loss in revenues this would result in.
DS Construction, however, told the court that it was incorrect to say that it would be walking away clear of debt since there were still third-party liabilities that needed to be settled and it would have no assets left after this. It added that IDFC’s stance came as a surprise since it appeared to be closing all possibilities of a settlement.
“The concessionaire is employing stalling tactics and this matter won’t be sorted out as DS Constructions is demanding something which can’t be given. We (the lenders’ consortium) have agreed to move the toll, agreed to take over all the liabilities and the concessionaire has the opportunity to walk away clear as a debt of Rs 400 crore has been written off, but we are not going beyond this. We are not going for an open-ended settlement. Obviously, no one (in the lenders’ consortium) will take it,” Salve told the court.