Indian High Commission owes £2 million to UK towards congestion charges
London May 25: The Indian High Commission owes London authorities over 2 million pounds towards congestion charge, which is levied on vehicles entering busy central London roads during the day on weekdays.
As of May 2, 2012, the Indian High Commission owes Transport for London (TfL), the government body responsible for transport in Greater London, 2,405,560 million pounds, official sources told PTI on Thursday.
The US embassy is the biggest defaulter with an outstanding amount of 6,532,680 pounds, while Russia (4,734,480 pounds) and Japan (4,389,300 pounds) among other top defaulters, latest figures indicate.
Paul Cowperthwaite, head of TfL's Contracted Services, said that two-thirds of foreign missions in London pay the congestion change, but a "stubborn minority" refused to do so, despite representations through diplomatic channels.
The key issue in the row is whether the congestion charge is a charge for a "service" or a "tax".
Several foreign missions believe that it is a "tax", and thus they are exempt from paying it under the Vienna Convention.
A spokesperson of the Indian High Commission said: "The Government of India has decided not to pay congestion charges on diplomatic cars as these are in the form of a tax and Diplomatic Missions are not subject to taxation."
Cowperthwaite said: "TfL 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 two thirds 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."
He added: "TfL 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."
TfL has taken up the issue with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with a view to taking the row to the International Court of Justice.
The FCO is expected to reach a view on this later this month.
During US President Barack Obama's visit to London in May 2011, his cavalcade was fined 120 pounds for not paying the congestion charge.
The area in central London where the charge is levied is marked by several CCTVs that monitor vehicles entering the zone, which is indicated on street signs with a red 'C' sign. The charge aims to reduce congestion, and to raise investment funds for London's transport system.
The charge is 9 pounds per vehicle, which goes up if paid after the journey.