KOCHI: The state government on Friday filed an application in the Kerala High Court seeking to stay all further proceedings based on the Centre's order approving the grant of lease/concession on right of operation, management and development of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to Adani Enterprises Limited for 50 years. The state made it clear that leasing out buildings and structures as well as other premises of the airport was not in the public interest.
The application filed by the government through Senior Government Pleader P Narayanan pointed out that the Supreme Court had set aside the judgment of the High Court dismissing the government’s writ petition against the Airport Authority of India's (AAI) 'Request for Proposal' to grant the right of operation, management and development of the airport to Adani Enterprises Limited.
The Supreme Court had also sent back the matter to the High Court for considering the government's challenge on merit. However, during the pendency of the writ petition, the Centre had now approved the lease in favour of the Adani group under section 12A of the Airports Authority of India Act 1994. It was understood that necessary contractual transactions would be entered into by the Centre, AAI and the company following the approval. In fact, the state government had substantial proprietary and other rights over the land on which the airport was constructed.
The government had pointed out that the Centre had assured the state in 2003 that taking into account its contribution for the acquisition of additional land for the airport, it would be consulted when a decision to privatise the management of the airport was taken. This assurance had been violated.
The High Court while dismissing the government's plea had observed that the dispute was between the State of Kerala and the Union government. Only the Supreme Court, and not high courts, had jurisdiction in such Centre-state disputes. Kerala should have directly filed a suit under Article 131 in the Supreme Court, the High Court had observed.
In its writ petition, the government contended that the attempt of the AAI to grant the right of operation, management and development of the airport to Adani Enterprises Limited, which has no previous experience in managing airports, was not in the public interest and violated the provisions of the Airports Authority of India Act as well as the proprietary right of the state government over the land where the airport was situated.
The Centre had also declined a request to transfer the operation of the airport to the state government, which could form a special purpose vehicle and tie up with a partner with proven expertise in airport management. In fact, the state government had preferential rights to get the contract in the public interest, said the petition.