Kerala moves SC against leasing Thiruvananthapuram airport to Adani

The state government, in its plea, said that the High Court failed to appreciate that the process of tender was vitiated for many reasons.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan
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The Kerala government has moved the Supreme Court challenging the Union Government’s move to lease out the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to Adani Enterprises. This comes after the Kerala High Court, last month, dismissed all petitions challenging the Centre's decision to hand over, to the Adani group, the operations of the international airport, which was one of the six for which the Adani group won a lease. The petitions included one by the state government as well. The state government has sought stay on this High Court order.

The state government, in its plea, said that the High Court failed to appreciate that the process of tender was vitiated for many reasons and one of the pre-qualification conditions that the tenderer should have previous experience in airport management for which previous experience of the state was not considered by the Centre.

"Instead, the previous practice of providing previous experience in airport management as a prequalification was deliberately deleted from the RFP related to Thiruvananthapuram Airport. This is done with a deliberate attempt to avoid the state government, which is having previous experience," said the plea.

The plea submitted that the High Court failed to note the "crucial and relevant fact" that the state Chief Minister, vide communication dated February 27, 2019, had offered to match Adani's bid and "hence there is no question of any revenue loss to the Airport Authority by granting the concession in favour of the KSIDC (Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation)".

The airport has around 335 acres of land including the land given by the state government. From 2000 onwards, the state acquired land and gave it free of cost to the Airport Authority of India on the expectation that the value of land handed over to AAI would be converted into equity of the state government in the event of airport being structured into a company or an SPV set up to manage the airport.

The state government cited the letter dated December 2, 2003, where the Centre had given an assurance to Kerala that when a decision is taken to induct private sector into the management of Thiruvananthapuram Airport, the Centre would consult the state government taking into account the contribution made by it towards acquisition of land to the airport.

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