The Kerala High Court today dismissed the state government’s petition against the Adani group managing Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.
The state government had on August 21 filed an application in August against the Centre’s decision to lease out the airport to Adani Enterprises. The plea followed an all-party-meeting in the state demanding the withdrawal of the Union Cabinet decision.
Earlier the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC), formed to participate in the bid, had lost out to Adani Enterprises’ winning bid for the airport’s lease and maintenance by a relatively narrow margin of Rs16 per passenger. The GMR Group was the third bidder.
“The state government will take this forward through all legal means, including petitioning the Supreme Court,” said Kerala minister Kadakampally Surendran responding to the dismissal of the petition. “The Central Government’s decision to ‘sell’ Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to a private player is daylight robbery,” he added, saying the state had done everything for the airport, including providing land.
Union Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, had earlier hit out at the allegations made by Kerala saying, “The state was given fair chance and the right to first refusal if its bid was within 10% below the range of the highest bid. However, hey bid Q9.65% below.”
Thiruvananthapuram International Airport was among the six such facilities for which the Adani group had won the lease in February 2019 for 50 years. The bids were invited by the Airports Authority of India for a public-private partnership (PPP) model of operation based on fees per domestic passengers.
While the opposition to Adani taking charge apparently comes from both the dominant political groups in the state – the Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led United Democratic Front – Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, a parliamentarian from Thiruvananthapuram, has backed the central government’s PPP model for the facility.
The Kerala government had last year opposed the bid to privatise the airport. It formed KSIDC, only after the Kerala High Court dismissed the state’s petition. The state then approached the Supreme Court, which while setting aside the High Court’s decision, remanded the case back to be decided based on merit.
On August 25, the Kerala High Court once again declined to stay the proceedings, adjourning the case for detailed hearing according to the Supreme Court’s instructions.