Fuming at the delay over the start of international flights from the newly-built Chandigarh international airport in SAS Nagar, the Punjab and Haryana high court has said it would order the registration of first-information report (FIRs) against officers responsible for holding up the decision, if the Centre failed to clarify its stand during the next hearing in the matter scheduled for Monday (March 21).
In December 2015, the Mohali Industries Association had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the high court highlighting that international flights had not started from the airport, even three months after its inauguration in September. The petition had sought directions to start international flights.
During the resumed hearing on Thursday, the court said prima facie it appeared a case of ‘embezzlement’ and those involved should face criminal proceedings.
“Everybody is aghast in the region. We can’t let their confidence be shattered,” the high court division bench of justice SS Saron and justice Gurmit Ram observed during the one-hour hearing on Thursday as the Centre failed to submit status report on the action taken on airlines’ requests to start operations.
Appearing for the civil aviation ministry, assistant solicitor general Chetan Mittal told the court that meetings were on, but he could not spell out what action had been taken.
The ministry was to submit a status report on action taken by it on proposals received from Bulgarian carrier, BH Air and Flydubai, a Saudi Arabian airline seeking permission to start flights between Chandigarh and their countries.
“We (the court) are satisfied ...there is embezzlement. We will go ahead with the writ petition. In the meantime, FIRs will be registered by CBI (to probe the role of officials responsible for delay),” the HC bench observed upon submissions of petitioner’s counsel Puneet Bali that even as almost `1,400 crore had been spent, requisite infrastructure was not in place, and international operations were yet to start in spite of the fact that inauguration took place in September.
Upon requests from Mittal, the bench agreed to adjourn the matter for Monday, but made it clear that if the court remained dissatisfied, it would order registration of FIRs . The HC also stated that it was dissatisfied over the handling of matters related to this region by the centre, observing that it had different ‘yardsticks’.
“We have seen this in many cases,” justice Saron remarked, citing a case about affiliation of dental colleges of Punjab and Tamil Nadu.