New Delhi: Determined to ensure air connectivity to Shimla and the Northeast, Supreme Court today directed the government and its agencies to give a categorical answer on the issue by May 4 or attract orders fixing responsibility for the failure.
“If by May 4, we get the answer that air connectivity to Shimla is not being ensured, then we will pass an order and fix responsibility against those for this,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices R Banumathi and U U Lalit said.
“Earlier the service is resumed, the better,” the bench said while taking strong note of lack of air connectivity to Shimla and the Northeastern states.
The apex court said its order will not prevent the competent authorities from directing other airlines to fly to a particular destination.
“The December 16, 2015 interim order shall not prevent the competent authorities from enforcing the operation the obligation of providing 10 per cent of (the capacity deployed on) Category-I service (trunk routes) to Category-II routes,” the bench said.
The bench also directed the competent authorities, including the Civil Aviation Ministry, to place the copy of direction issued by them before the bench takes up the matter for next hearing on May 4.
Under the government’s Route Dispersal Guidelines, Category-I routes are the busy routes connecting major metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai, while Category-II are those in remote and difficult parts of the country, including Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast and the island territories.
Counsel representing the Ministry, aviation regulator DGCA and others said all of them favoured launching of these services. To this, the bench said “we hope there is no political game in this.”
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General P S Patwalia, appearing for the Ministry and DGCA, said that ATR- 42, a twin-turboprop, short-haul regional aircraft, was the suitable airplane to fly to places like Shimla, after keeping some seats empty to ensure payload limitations.
While he was making the submission, the bench said “We should at least not compromise with safety.”