The Kerala government on Thursday moved the Supreme Court challenging the decision of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to hand over the operation and management of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to Adani Enterprises Ltd.
The AAI's decision to prefer a private party, ignoring the offer of the Kerala government to operate and manage the airport at the same commercial rates as quoted by Adani Enterprises, has been challenged as "arbitrary, motivated by mala fides, and devoid of public interest".
The AAI attempted to grant right of operation, management and development of Thiruvananthapuram Airport to a private party, Adani, who has no previous experience in managing airports, it said. This is not in public interest and instead violated provisions of the AAI Act, 1994 as well as proprietary rights of the state government as the Thiruvananthapuram Airport sits on government land, it added.
In December 2019, the Kerala High Court rejected the state government's writ petition against the decision holding that the case came under the ambit of Article 131 of the Constitution, as AAI is a functionary of the Central government. The High Court said the petition under Article 226 of the Constitution was not maintainable at the instance of the state government.
The High Court observed that since AAI was only pursuing a policy decision of the Centre, the case involves a dispute with the Central government, which can be resolved under Article 131. This has been challenged by the state government contending that a suit under Article 131 does not contemplate disputes with state instrumentalities and private parties.
Challenging this judgment, the Kerala government filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, where a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde and comprising Justices Surya Kant and B R Gavai adjourned hearing on the petition on Thursday.
"It is submitted that the High Court failed to appreciate that the word 'State' in Article 131 of the Constitution cannot be a state under Article 12 of the Constitution of India. The Airports Authority may qualify to be a 'State' in terms of Articles 12 and 36 of the Constitution," the petition said.