Kerala HC dismisses state's plea against lease of Trivandrum airport
Kerala HC dismisses state's plea against lease of Trivandrum airport

Kerala High Court dismissed Kerala Government's petition challenging the Union government's decision to lease out the right of operation, management and development of the Thiruvananthapuram international airport to Adani Enterprises Limited.

A Division Bench comprising Justice K Vinod Chandran and Justice CS Dias issued the order observing that it is a policy decision of the Union government and cannot be interfered.

Kerala government submitted that many clauses in the Request for Proposal (RFP) were tailor-made to suit private players. However, the court rejected this contention. According to the State, ''the Assembly had on August 24 unanimously resolved to request the Union government to avoid handing over the operation and management of the Thiruvananthapuram airport to private players and instead consider a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) formed by the state government.'' Jaju Babu, senior advocate who appeared on behalf of Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) submitted the Corporation cannot compete in the tender like a commercial player and the sole criteria based on passenger fee would burden the passengers.

The Centre had contended that the tender procedure was carried out in a transparent manner and special advantage was given to KSIDC considering the Kerala government's request. The Centre had no other option but to proceed with awarding the lease agreement to Adani Enterprises, the highest bidder, as the State government entity, KSIDC did not fall within parameters of the RFP. The government added 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 violation of the entire bidding process. The Centre said that it had approved the grant of lease/concession of 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 transfer of such property.

Answering to the wrong contentions taken by some of the petitioners that participation of qualified bidders in the tender process was less, Adani Enterprises pointed out that 25 bidders had registered and 10 bidders submitted 32 bids for various airports.

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