SC to hear State Govt’s plea against lease of Thiruvananthapuram Airport on Mar 8

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Apex Court will hear the Kerala Govt’s appeal against the Airport Authority of India’s (AAI) decision to lease out Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to Adani Enterprises Limited on March 8.

A 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court, headed by CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde & Justice A S Bopanna & Justice V Ramasubramanian said, “we will hear the matter on March 8.”

Govt of Kerala had moved the Top Court & filed an appeal against the AAI’s decision to lease out Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, in the state to Adani Enterprises Ltd.

Earlier, the High Court of Kerala dismissed the State Govt’s plea challenging the Union Govt’s decision to lease out the right of operation, management, & development of the Thiruvananthapuram international airport to Adani Enterprises Ltd.

A Division Bench comprising Justice K Vinod Chandran & Justice CS Dias issued the order observing that it is a policy decision of the Union government & cannot be interfered with.

Kerala Govt submitted that many clauses in the Request for Proposal (RFP) were tailor-made to suit private players. However, the court rejected this contention.

According to the State, ”the Assembly had on August 24 unanimously resolved to request the Union Govt to avoid handing over the operation & management of the Thiruvananthapuram airport to private players & instead consider a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) formed by the state government.”

The Centre had contended that the tender procedure was carried out in a transparent manner & special advantage was given to KSIDC considering the Kerala government’s request.

The Centre had no other option but to proceed with awarding the lease agreement to Adani Enterprises, the highest bidder, as the State Govt entity, KSIDC did not fall within parameters of the RFP.

The Govt added that the decision to go for the PPP mode of operation, management & development of airports was taken purely on public interest. It was also a policy decision of the Union government.

According to the Centre, the award of the lease to the KSIDC by allowing it to match the bid amount of the highest bidder after the completion of bidding process would have amounted to a violation of the entire bidding process.

The Centre said that it had approved the grant of lease/concession of the airport to the highest bidder for 50 years subject to the security clearance from the National Security Agency. In fact, the decision taken by the Centre was in the interest of the airport.

Adani enterprises argued that the property acquired & transferred to AAI completely vests with the Authority & therefore neither the State Government nor KSIDC has any locus standi to lay any claim on the basis of the transfer of such property.

Answering the wrong contentions taken by some of the petitioners that participation of qualified bidders in the tender process was less, Adani Enterprises pointed out that 25 bidders had registered & 10 bidders submitted 32 bids for various airports.

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