Kerala Govt Moves SC Against ‘Arbitrary’ Airport Lease to Adani
From Adani’s lack of experience with airports to violation of a previous undertaking, here’s what Kerala is arguing.
On Tuesday, 24 November, the Kerala government filed an appeal in the Supreme Court challenging the decision of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to allow Adani Enterprises Limited to take over the “operation, management and development” of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.
They had already previously moved the Kerala High Court against the AAI’s decision to lease the airport to Adani for 50 years, but on 19 October, the high court had allowed it to proceed – hence this appeal in the apex court.
The Kerala government insists that it was an “arbitrary and illegal” action by the AAI to hand over control to a private entity rather than the state government itself, as the tender process was malafide and violates an undertaking previously given by the central Ministry of Civil Aviation to them.
“High Court failed to appreciate that there is clear malafide on the part of the Airport Authority of India in bidding process. The malafide on the part of Airport Authority of India are (i) firstly not requiring any airport management experience as a prerequisite to make a bid and (ii) secondly requiring that the financial bid qua one airport would be sufficient to bid for all six airports as well...”Kerala government plea, as reported in Bar & Bench
In addition to Thiruvananthapuram airport, Adani Enterprises had won bids in 2019 to operate the Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru and Guwahati airports, despite having no previous experience in the field.
No Previous Experience, Violation of Undertaking
The Kerala government has emphasised that Adani has no experience when it comes to operation of airports, and therefore, granting control over the Thiruvananthapuram Airport to them was not in the public interest as it would not facilitate better management.
In particular, they have taken exception to the high court’s ruling that there had been no violation of the undertaking given to the Kerala government by the Centre.
They have noted that the Kerala government gave the AAI land free of cost for the construction of the airport despite not being obliged to do so, based on an “explicit understanding” that they would be able to form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to operate it on completion on a revenue-sharing basis.
This had been raised by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following a letter written by him in 2018 to the Civil Aviation Ministry.
The appeal also notes the state’s experience in running the Kochi International Airport and the Kannur International Airport, and that they had been willing to operate the Thiruvananthapuram airport at the same rate as that quoted by Adani Enterprises.
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