With no addition to facilities at Chandigarh international airport since the start of international operations last month, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday directed the operator, the Chandigarh International Airport Limited (CHIAL), and Punjab and Haryana to discuss whether the internal security expense could be shared by them.
The HC bench of justice SS Saron and justice Lisa Gill gave the direction after suggestions from lawyers that if Punjab and Haryana shared the annual spend on internal security, pegged at Rs 33 crore, the operator could reduce bid prices for other facilities. This will ultimately lead to early provision of such facilities. The airport revenue is around Rs 40 crore a year and it is thus running a net loss of around Rs 20 crore.
What was said on facilities
During the hearing, the court was told that inline baggage screening system will be in place next year, for Wi-Fi facility, only one bidder has come forward, lounges given to CITCO are yet to become operational and tendering process for food and beverage shops is on. The facilities of duty-free shops and additional five ATMs are also yet to be added.
Appearing for the petitioner, Mohali Industries Association, which had brought the issue in court in 2015 seeking the start of international flight from the airport, senior advocate Puneet Bali said, “We are told that prices have been kept high to make the airport viable. Bidders are wary at this stage. If the spending on security is shared by Haryana and Punjab, CHIAL would be able to reduce bid prices, which will result in all facilities being put in place at the earliest,” he said, adding that at a time when both the governments of Punjab and Haryana were competing with each other in taking credit for airport, Rs 33 crore was not a large amount.
During the hearing, the court was also told that ministry of home affairs is likely to bear expenses on security aspect in the future.
Hence, both these states could share the burden as a temporary measure.
The bench asked these three stakeholders to hold a meeting to discuss the issue. It has also asked CHIAL to submit fresh status report on all the facilities by December 1, the next date of hearing.
The division bench also sought response from joint secretary (Air), ministry of defence on status of land acquisition for the expansion of the airport.
Earlier, assistant solicitor general, Chetan Mittal told the high court that the work on re-carpeting was at advanced stage for which Rs 456 crore was to be spent and tender would be uploaded by October-end, and work would be awarded in mid-January.
‘Explore possibility of more flights’
The HC also directed impartial adviser to court in this matter, senior advocate ML Sarin to convene a meeting with domestic as well as international airlines to explore possibility of starting more flights. CHIAL will put a notice on its website after which a meeting will be fixed.