An all party meeting in Kerala demanded that the Centre revoke its decision to hand over the airport operations to Adani.

Pinarayi Vijayan in mask addressing media
news Controversy Monday, October 19, 2020 - 15:49

The Kerala High Court on Monday dismissed petitions filed by Kerala government and others challenging the Centre's decision to lease out the Thiruvananthapuram international airport to Adani Enterprises. Adani won the right to operate, manage and develop the Thiruvananthapuram airport and five other airports. The Kerala State Industrial Corporation Ltd (KSIDC) had also participated in the bidding.

Dismissing the plea, a division bench of the High Court comprising Justices K Vinod Chandran and C S Dias delivered the verdict, observing that “it is a policy decision of the Union government and cannot be interfered”.

Representing the state government, senior Supreme Court lawyer Vikas Singh submitted that many clauses in the Request for Proposal for bidding, were tailor made to suit private interests. He also argued that the State government’s KSIDC, which had participated in the bidding through a Special Purpose Vehicle was offered the right of first refusal and that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had offered to match Adani’s bid in order to secure the tender.

Meanwhile the Union government submitted that the bidding was held in a transparent manner, and that the KSIDC was even given a special advantage considering the state government’s request. However, as the KSIDC did not fall within the parameters of the RPF, the Centre decided to offer the lease agreement to Adani Enterprises, who bid the highest. The Centre also submitted that allowing the KDISC to match the bid amount of the highest bidder, after the bidding process was over, would be a violation of the entire tender process. Adani Enterprises won the rights to operate, manage and develop the Thiruvananthapuram airport for 50 years. 

In an earlier letter sent to the centre, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had argued that it was the Kerala government which had handed over 23.57 acres of land, free, to the Airports Authority of India, for development of the Thiruvananthapuram airport’s International Terminal. The letter also stated that the Kerala government had more than once asked for the airport operations and management to be shifted to the SPV, where the state government has a major stake of equity.

After participating in the bidding process held in late 2018, the KSIDC lost to the Adani group, after bidding at 135 per passenger, against Adani’s Rs 168.

Meanwhile the Adani Enterprises submitted that the property acquired and transferred to the AAI is vested entirely with the AAI, and therefore, “neither the state government nor the KSIDC has any locus standi to lay claim”.

The Kerala government, on August 21, had moved the high court seeking a stay on further proceedings in leasing Thiruvananthapuram international airport to Adani Enterprises. The state government had filed the application in the court, after an all-party-meeting in Kerala demanded withdrawal of the Union Cabinet's decision to lease the airport to Adani Enterprises.

The Kerala government, on August 21, had moved the high court seeking a stay on further proceedings in leasing Thiruvananthapuram international airport to Adani Enterprises. This application was filed in the court, after an all-party-meeting in Kerala demanded that the Union Cabinet's decision to lease the airport to Adani Enterprises be revoked. 

Last year, the high court had dismissed the petition challenging the decision, terming it as not maintainable under Article 226 of the Constitution.

The state government then filed an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the high court order.

The apex court set aside the judgement of the high court and the matter was remanded back to it for a decision on merit.

Referring to the top court directive, the state government had said, "all further proceedings in relation to grant of lease with regard to operation, management and development of Thiruvananthapuram international airport to Adani Enterprises Ltd, is to be stayed pending disposal of the aforementioned writ petition."

The Adani Enterprises had won the rights to run six airports -- Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati -- through the PPP model after a competitive bidding process in February, 2019.

Vijayan had told the all-party meet that the state government had asked for the management and the operation of the airport with the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in which it will be the major shareholder.

The Centre had said the state government did not qualify in the bidding process that was carried out in a "transparent manner". Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had also  said that the Kerala government did not qualify in the international bidding process. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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