Karnataka HC dismisses PIL against privatisation of Mangaluru airport
Karnataka High Court on Tuesday dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) filed against the privatization of Mangaluru International Airport. The state-run airport operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), was taken over by the Adani Group on October 31 and has commenced commercial operations there.
The PIL filed by the Airports Authority Employees Union had sought to quash a 2019 cabinet decision approving the leasing of three airports including the one at Mangaluru, terming the same as “illegal, arbitrary and beyond the scope of the Airport Authority Act, 1994.”
A Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum however said that since the leasing Mangaluru airport was done based on a Government of India policy, there was no scope for the HC’s intervention.
In 2018, the Union government had announced an in-principle approval for leasing out six airports in India —Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Guwahati, Thiruvananthapuram, and Mangaluru Airports through Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Adani groups, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Adani Enterprises Ltd, was the highest bidder, the Union government announced later.
The bench’s order copy is awaited.
Senior Advocate Ashok Haranahalli, appearing for the petitioners, referred to Section 12 of the Airports Authority of India Act and argued there was no revenue sharing with the government and that the entire fixation of the lease is on per passenger fee. He added that even though it is called a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project, there is no revenue generated for the formulation of a PPP partnership. “The airport is given to a third party, which is not in consonance with the policy of Public-Private Partnership model. This is not a partnership but just giving away,” Haranahalli submitted.
Additional Solicitor General MB Nargund, appearing for the Union government, said that a branch of the same petitioner union had filed a plea before the Kerala High Court, which was rejected. The present petition is thus not maintainable, it was contended.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, following protests, the tag ‘Adani airports’ was removed from the name boards of the Mangaluru International Airport. Following the takeover of operation on October 31, the logo of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) was replaced with the Advani groups logo. Changes were also made on Google Map where it was listed as ‘Mangaluru International Airport by Adani Airports’.
A reply received under the Right to Information (RTI) also revealed that there was no provision to change the airport name as per the agreement for operations and maintenance of the airport. A legal notice was served in March this year to the AAI and the MIA director questioning the ‘Adani’ tag attached to the name boards based on this RTI reply by activists.