Mangaluru International Airport (PTI)
Mangaluru International Airport (PTI)

Karnataka high court rejects PIL on Mangaluru airport privatisation

Adani Group took over the state-run airport, operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), on October 31 last year and started commercial operations there.
By Arun Dev, Bengaluru
UPDATED ON SEP 15, 2021 12:24 AM IST

The Karnataka high court on Tuesday dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) filed against the privatisation of the Mangaluru International Airport.

Adani Group took over the state-run airport, operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), on October 31 last year and started commercial operations there.

The PIL filed by the Airports Authority Employees Union had sought quashing of a 2019 cabinet decision approving the leasing of three airports, including the one at Mangaluru, terming the move 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 said that since the Mangaluru airport was lease out based on a government of India policy, there was no scope for the HC’s intervention. A copy of the bench’s order is awaited.

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 -- through public-private partnership (PPP). Adani Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Adani Enterprises Ltd, was the highest bidder, the Union government announced later.

Senior Advocate Ashok Haranahalli, appearing for the petitioners, referred to Section 12 of the Airports Authority of India Act and argued that there was no revenue sharing with the government and that the entire fixation of the lease is based on per passenger fee. He added that though it is called a PPP project, there is no revenue generated for the formulation of a public-private 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, he contended.

Meanwhile, the tag ‘Adani airports’ was removed from the name boards of the Mangaluru International Airport on Saturday following protests. After the takeover of operations, the logo of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) was replaced with the Adani Group’s logo. Changes were also made on Google Map where it was listed as ‘Mangaluru International Airport by Adani Airports’.

A reply received under Right to Information (RTI) Act also revealed that there was no provision to change the airport name as per the agreement for operations and maintenance of the airport. Based on this RTI reply, activists served a legal notice in March this year to the AAI and the MIA director, questioning the ‘Adani’ tag attached to the name boards.  

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