In yet another setback to embattled Indian infrastructure major GMR, a Singapore court today ruled that the Maldives government can take back the Male International Airport from the private firm.
"Singapore Court of Appeal has passed judgement that the Maldives Government has the
authority to take back the airport," Maldives President Mohamed Waheed's Press Secretary Masood Imad said in Male.
He further said, "Maldives will go ahead with the transfer as scheduled".
Maldives had in a surprise move on November 27 terminated the over USD 500 million contract awarded to GMR during the previous regime of Mohamed Nasheed to upgrade its Male airport and to build a new terminal.
The government had said it was terminating the contract because it was signed under "dubious conditions" and was void, a charge hotly contested by the infrastructure major.
Following the termination, GMR had approached the Singapore High Court which had stayed the scrapping of contract. However, the Maldives government remained defiant and asserted that it would take over the airport from GMR on Saturday, a day after the notice period ends.
After today's ruling, Imad told PTI, "We are not doing anything against the law. We are just following the law. Now, even the Singapore court has given us the permission to go ahead".
As per the project contract, in case of any differences between parties, the law of either Singapore or UK would apply.
Taken by "surprise" over the GMR issue, India had conveyed to Maldives that the move will have serious consequences on the bilateral ties as it is considering a "series of options", including slowing down cooperative programmes, if legal course is not followed.
India acknowledges that the Maldivian government's decision to cancel GMR's contract for building Male airport is a domestic issue but it is upset over "anti-India sentiment being whipped up" in connection with the issue there.
Sources said the possibility of some external forces playing a role in the cancellation of the airport contract cannot be ruled out, even though there was no clear evidence of Chinese angle so far.