HC dismisses Kerala govt’s plea against Thiruvananthapuram airport contract for Adani

A bench headed by justice S Manikumar said that the matter was premature and not maintainable in court.
HC dismisses Kerala govt’s plea against Thiruvananthapuram airport contract for Adani
HC dismisses Kerala govt’s plea against Thiruvananthapuram airport contract for Adani

In a major setback to the Kerala government, the Kerala High Court on Wednesday dismissed multiple writ petitions challenging the move by Airports Authority of India (AAI) to grant the rights of operation, management and development of Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to the Adani group for 50 years. 

Petitions filed by the state government, Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation, (the state designated entity which lost the Thiruvananthapuram airport bid to Adani group), the Airports Authority Employees Union, and others were dismissed by a larger high court bench headed by Chief Justice S Manikumar on Wednesday. 

According to sources in the know, the bench stated that the pleas were ‘premature’ and ‘not maintainable’ in the high court. 

On March 6, 2019, the Kerala government had moved the high court challenging the privatisation of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. The government’s petition argued that the AAI’s move to grant right of operation, management and development of the airport to the Adani enterprises was not in public interest. Adani Enterprise Ltd, which has no prior experience in operating or managing an airport, emerged as the highest bidder, winning contracts of all six airports, including the one in Thiruvananthapuram, which was being run by AAI, in February 2019.

In the writ petition, the government argued that AAI’s move violated the AAI Act as well as the proprietary rights of the state which owns the land — 635 acres — on which the Thiruvananthapuram airport is built. The KSIDC participated in the bid to win the contract of Thiruvananthapuram airport but lost to the Adani group. 

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had also written to PM Narendra Modi asking him not to hand over the airport to a private entity. In his letter to the Centre, the CM also offered to take over and run the airport at a rate which matches Adani’s bid. The letter also contended that the state government deserved preferential consideration over the Adani group taking into account public interest and experience to running airports in the state. 

In his letter to Modi, CM Pinarayi stated that in 2003, the Civil Aviation Secretary had assured the government that a decision to involve a private player and manage the airport would only be taken after consultations with the state government. It also noted that the request for proposal for tender bids had no condition of proper experience in operating airports. All that a bidder required was to have experience in infrastructure projects. 

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