With the Centre failing to submit a concrete plan on international flights from the Chandigarh International airport, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday directed the civil aviation ministry, the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to convene a meeting on the issue and apprise it of the outcome on April 7.
The high court bench of justice SS Saron and justice Gurmit Ram also directed the civil aviation ministry to list out the names of airlines contacted by it after the inauguration of airport by prime minister, Narendra Modi in September 2015, for starting international flights from the airport. The ministry was directed that secretary level officials should participate in the meeting.
The AAI invited the court’s ire after it failed to put forth a concrete plan on international operations, in spite of giving such an assurance on the last date of hearing. The court even observed that it would have to order a CBI probe into the ‘mis-utilisation’ of funds.
Close airport, HC to government
During the hearing, appearing for AAI, senior advocate Atul Nanda told the court that Indigo Airlines, which had shown its intent to start international operations had stated that there were two issues due to which it was not able to start flights — the airline was yet to get a slot on Chandigarh-Dubai flight and logistical issues persisted.
The court was also told that Air India was persuaded to start operations, but even it raised issues. In all, 48 airlines had been approached by the government on international flights, the court was informed.
“The proposal of Fly Dubai was technically wrong and had to be submitted in its country not here,” Nanda told the court, adding that, bilateral agreements between countries played an important role and that was one reason operations could not be started from the airport.
The HC bench expressed surprise over the submissions and asked as to why the government did not think of all these issues when work was commenced and now when Rs 1,400 had been spent on the airport these issues were being raised. “I am telling you with folded hands. Please close the airport. People will heave a sigh of relief. At least you will save on maintenance,” the HC bench observed as Nanda failed to impress the court on giving any deadline on when operations would start.
Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Puneet Bali and Neha Sonawane contended before the court that 40% of those living abroad were from this region. “If Chandigarh airport is allowed to have international operations, Delhi would lose business, which is leading to the delay. It is surprising that work on construction of the airport was started in 2012, but these issues were not taken care of,” Bali told the court seeking a CBI probe.