The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Union government's stand on a plea challenging its ground handling policy at metro and some other airports, forbidding private airlines from doing the job and asking them to hand it over to government-approved agencies due to security concerns.
Issuing notices to the Civil Aviation Ministry, Directorate General of Civil Aviation and others on a petition by private airlines federation, a bench of justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik sought their response within two weeks and adjourned the matter for further hearing on April 25.
The bench issued notices on the petition challenging the Delhi high court's March 4 ruling, upholding the government's new ground handling policy.
On security reasons, the policy permits only national carrier Air India and the airport operator (such as Airports Authority of India, GMR and GVK) to render ground handling services.
While issuing notices, the bench, however, declined to stay the high court's order and asked various private airlines to enter into an agreement with the respective firms (government approved agencies) for outsourcing their ground handling duties.
The private airlines federation in its petition pointed out that while the government has asked them to outsource their ground handling services at six metro and some other airports, the new policy is not applicable to Jammu, Amritsar and Cochin airports.
This left the bench wondering as to why the new ground handling policy is applicable for some airports and not for others.
The court also asked the government if outsourcing ground handling duties by private airlines would not affect their efficiency and time bound services for which they are known.
"It is right for you to make policy but if something is going smoothly, are you not just disturbing it?," the bench asked Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium.
"What prompted you to do it? What was the security threat? Why there was no security threat in Jammu, Srinagar, Amritsar and cochin...Anybody who travels by the private airlines would know the kind of service they provide," the bench said.
"By this are you not killing the efficiency of private airlines?," the bench asked.