Supreme Court to hear Kerala's plea against Centre's move to lease Thiruvananthapuram airport to Adani Enterprises
The Supreme Court will on Monday hear the Kerala government's appeal against the Airport Authority of India's (AAI) decision to lease out Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to Adani Enterprises Limited. The case will be heard by a three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde, justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
The Kerala government moved the top court last year challenging the AAI's decision. The state-run Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) participated in the bid held last year but Adani Enterprises quoted the highest and won the bid in February, 2019.
The plea was filed in the Supreme Court after the Kerala high court dismissed the state government's plea over the issue last year. It said that this a dispute between Centre and state and can be decided only by the Supreme Court under Article 131 of the Constitution.
The Pinarayi Vijayan government contended that the Centre was bound to consult the state government under a 2003 assurance before involving a private party to run the airport. It said that the AAI's decision wasn’t in public interest as the private party has no experience in managing airports.
It was also argued that the move violates the proprietary rights of the state government since the land on which the Thiruvananthapuram Airport is situated, was given by the state government and the erstwhile Travancore state to AAI from time to time free of cost.
The Centre, meawhile, countered Kerala's arguments saying that the tender procedure was carried out in a transparent manner and special advantage was given to KSIDC considering the Kerala government's request. It also said that the decision to go for the PPP mode of operation, management and development of airports was taken purely on public interest. It was also a policy decision of the Union government.
According to the Centre, the award of the lease to the KSIDC by allowing it to match the bid amount of the highest bidder after the completion of bidding process would have amounted to a violation of the entire bidding process.
The Centre said that it had approved the grant of lease/concession of the airport to the highest bidder for 50 years subject to the security clearance from the national security agency. In fact, the decision taken by the Centre was in the interest of the airport.
Adani enterprises argued that the property acquired and transferred to AAI completely vests with the Authority and therefore neither the state government nor KSIDC has any locus standi to lay any claim on the basis of the transfer of such property.