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The Supreme Court today adjourned the hearing in a plea filed by the State of Kerala against the decision of the Centre to hand over the operation of the Thiruvananthapuram Airport to Adani Group.
The State of Kerala has approached the Supreme Court assailing the order of the Kerala High Court which dismissed the Writ petition filed by the State as not maintainable.
The High Court dismissed the petition on the grounds that since the dispute is between the State and the Centre, the same can be heard only by the Supreme Court under its jurisdiction under Article 131 of the Constitution of India. A Writ under Article 226 in this matter will not be maintainable, the High Court had said.
The State of Kerala had also arrayed the Airport Authority of India as well as several other private parties in the matter and had contended that an Article 226 Writ would have been maintainable as a result. This contention, however, was rejected by the High Court which brought the State to the Apex Court challenging this decision.
The State has cited a plethora of precedents laid down by the Supreme Court wherein it was held that Article 131 jurisdiction would not be invoked in matters where private parties are also arrayed as parties. Citing decisions such as the 1970 judgment in State of Bihar v. Union of India, 1977 ruling in the case of State of Rajasthan v. Union of India, and also the 2006 judgment in Tashi Delek Gaming Solutions Ltd. v. State of Karnataka, the State has said,
Article 131 of the Constitution of India does not contemplate any private party being arrayed as a disputant on one side or the other and Article 131 will not be applicable where citizens or private bodies are parties either jointly or in the alternate with the State or the Government of India.
The root of the dispute is the decision of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to hand over the operation, management and development of Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to Adani enterprises Ltd. The Writ before the High Court was filed on the grounds that the decision did not consider public interest and in fact vitiated the process of tender.
The State of Kerala had contended that the State government had offered to take the project and the bid was at par with that of Adani Enterprises Ltd. The project was still handed over to Adani despite the Corporation not having any prior experience in managing Airports as opposed to the State government which is running several Airports in the State successfully, it is submitted.
The State also cites the example of Kochi Airport which is the only one to be functioning on solar powered panels to make a case for its expertise in the area of managing and running Airports.
Not only does this decision go against the provisions of the Airport Authority of India Act, 1994 but is also not in the interest of better management of the Airport, the State had contended and added
"...the attempted grant of concession being in violation of an earlier undertaking by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India and rejecting the proposal of the State Government to form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to take over and run the Airport on revenue sharing basis."
Finding that the decision in question was one of policy decision taken by the Government of India and the dispute was of the nature of a Centre-State dispute, only the Supreme Court would have jurisdiction to hear the same, the High Court dismissed the plea.
The State of Kerala is seeking to challenge the order of dismissal as well as seeking a stay on the operation of the decision of the AAI till the disposal of the matter.