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The case concerning the operationalisation of the Umroi airport in Shillong took another interesting turn on Friday when the Meghalaya High Court pulled up representatives of Indigo and Air Asia for apparently making false statements before the Court in the affidavits filed by them in the matter.
In December last year, the High Court had directed the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Air carriers to arrive at a decision about the date on which flights will start operating from the Umroi airport.
To ensure compliance, the High Court had also ordered that in case of default in taking such decision, the Secretary of Civil Aviation and CEOs/CMDs of respective airlines shall have to remain personally present in the court to explain why the decision for operating flights for Umroi airport has not been taken.
The Supreme Court, however, later stayed that portion of the order which had directed the personal appearance of the officials on December 13.
On December 14, the High Court then directed the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) to file a detailed status report with suggestion(s) for the future course of action regarding the operation of flights from Umroi airport to metros. The Court had also directed the airliners to file their affidavits in the matter.
Consequently, Indigo submitted before the Court that the Umroi airport does not have the facilities to park AIR 72-600 aircraft owned by Indigo. This apart, Indigo also submitted that there were visibility and aircraft landing issues hindering the accommodation of its aircraft at the Umroi airport.
Similar claims concerning low visibility, visual flight restrictions and safety issues were also raised by Air Asia in its affidavit.
To the contrary, General Air Traffic Manager RG Lama told the Court that AIR 72-600 aircraft have been taking off and landing at the Umroi airport on trial basis. Further, he also deposed that with the installation of the appropriate Instrument Landing Procedure, there were no issues of visibility as claimed by Indigo.
In addition, it was also claimed by Air Asia that “well-connected roads” at Shillong made roads the preferred way of travel, whereas flight travel was not at all commercially viable. On this claim, the order passed by the Bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice SR Sen notes,
“The deposition to the effect that Shillong is well connected by road which is more preferred way of travelling to Shillong than flight option, suggests that he has been playing in the hands of someone and has made such a deposition with the object of misleading the Court.“
Both Air Asia and Indigo have been directed to explain the false statements taken note of by the Court, within a week’s time. Rahul Kumar, representing Indigo has been directed to file an affidavit on the issue within a week, failing which he would be liable to personally appear before the Court.
“Shri Rahul Kumar who has filed this affidavit is required to make his position clear as to why he has made a false statement before the Court. He must file his affidavit within one week in case of default his personal appearance shall be indispensable.”
As for Air Asia, the Court has directed its representative Deepak Mahendra to personally appear before the Court to explain the false claims made in the affidavit filed by him. As noted in the order,