The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to submit a list of airline companies which possess a 42-seater aircraft for starting operations to Shimla.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur told the DGCA that it must enforce its policy mandating airlines to fly 10% of its capacity deployed on category I route (lucrative sectors) to remote areas and islands in category-II group. Shimla has been included in the second category two days ago. The bench has asked for the list to be submitted before May 4. It said if the competent authorities failed, the court will issue an appropriate order.
“You (Centre) are like Hanuman and need to be reminded of your immense power,” the CJI told additional solicitor general PS Patwalia when he contended that the DGCA can frame the policy but it was up to the airlines to implement it.
Under the government’s Route Dispersal Guidelines, Category-I routes are busy routes connecting major metros such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai, while Category-II routes are those in remote and difficult parts of the country, including Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast and the island territories.
The counsel for the civil Aviation ministry and the DGCA favoured launching of air services to Shimla. However, lawyers representing Air India and SpiceJet expressed reservations. Air India said it had only three small aircrafts, of which one is damaged.
The other two fly to Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshwadeep. SpiceJet said it does not have 42-seater aircraft.
Last week, the SC had taken strong exception to lack of air connectivity to places in the North East and Shimla’s Jubbarhatti airport and pulled up the government and Air India for “promoting interests” of private operators.
The top court is hearing Air India’s appeal against Himachal Pradesh High Court’s order asking it to start flights on a trial basis. On December 7, 2015 the SC had stayed the HC order.
The high court’s order had come on a petition by a local resident demanding resumption of Delhi-Shimla flight service from Jubbarhatti airport, which has remained non-operational for the past three years.