The Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday issued notice to the civil aviation ministry, Airport Authority of India (AAI) and Punjab on a public interest litigation seeking directions to them to start flights from airports at Bathinda, Ludhiana and Patiala or return the acquired land to land owners.
The division bench of justices SS Saron and Gurmit Ram has sought response from various parties by July 18 on the petition filed by an advocate HC Arora.
The court was told that three airports at Bathinda, Ludhiana and Pathankot have become “white elephants”, on which an expenditure of approximately Rs 34 crore was incurred during the last three years, for security, staff, power and water bills etc, but no flights are running from these airports.
The Bathinda airport, which was ready for the last three years, had not even been inaugurated so far. From other two airports also, no flights had taken place for last so many years, the court was told.
A minimum of Rs 100 crore has been spent on the construction of these airports, as per the petitioner.
It was argued that civil aviation minister told reporters during his visit in April 20 to Amritsar that that it was not possible to start flights from Bathinda or Ludhiana airports due to lack of availability of air traffic, due to which airlines were not taking interest in starting flights to these airports.
An amount of Rs 3,100 crore approximately of tax payers’ money was stuck into such 31 non-functional airports all over India, the petitioner claimed before the HC.
The petitioner demanded that either the respondents be directed to start flights from the three airports within a fixed timeframe, or they be directed to return the acquired land to land owners concerned.
In-depth enquiry be also directed into the procedure followed by respondents for giving approval for construction of airports, without conducting study about commercial viability of such airports, resulting into wastage of tax payers’ money, the petitioner sought.