Kerala govt approaches Supreme Court over Trivandrum Airport
New Delhi: The Kerala government has now approached the Supreme Court with a Special Leave Petition against a decision by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to award the contract for managing and operating the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to Adani Enterprises Limited after the High Court of Kerala had dismissed their plea in the matter.
The SLP filed in the top court has challenged the High Court judgement and a bench comprising CJI SA Bobde and Justice Surya Kant and BR Gavai adjourned the matter on Thursday.
The state government had moved the high court in Kerala with a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, which had dismissed it in December last year, saying the matter came under the ambit of Article 131 as it dealt with a challenge to a Central Government functionary, namely AAI in this case and a petition under Article 226 was not be maintainable in this regard.
However, the state government's challenge in the Apex court argues that the High Court judgement had not considered that AAI's definition as a "State" has been mandated only under Articles 12 and 36 of the Constitution, which specifies that such a definition is for the purposes of Parts III and IV of the Constitution. The state government has argued in their petition that AAI might qualify as a "State" under these Articles but this definition cannot be applied to it when referring to "State" as defined under Article 131, which covers the constituent of the Union of India.
The Kerala government has argued that awarding the work of managing and operating the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to Adani Enterprises was "arbitrary, motivated by mala fides and devoid of public interest", given that the state government had placed an offer before the Centre to operate and manage the airport at the same commercial rates quoted by Adani Enterprises.
The SLP put forward that the Kerala Government had past experience in managing airports such as the Cochin International Airport and the Kannur International Airport, both of which are currently being operated and managed by companies in which the state government has a majority stake.
According to the petition, the Kerala government had also communicated to the Centre and the AAI, showing its willingness to form a Special Purpose Vehicle such as the ones which handle both the Cochin and Kannur airports in the state. Further, the state has argued in its petition that Adani Enterprises has no previous experience handling airports.
The petition said, "The attempt on the part of the Airport Authority to grant right of Operation, Management and Development of Thiruvananthapuram Airport, to a private party, Respondent No.9(Adani), who has no previous experience in managing airports, is not in public interest and is violative of the provisions of the Airport Authority of India Act, 1994 as well as the proprietary rights of the State Government as regards the land wherein the Thiruvananthapuram Airport is situated, especially when the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Kerala, has offered to take the project at the rate at par with what was quoted by Respondent No.9".
When the argument was made before a bench of the Kerala High Court comprising Justices S Manikumar and AM Shaffique, the court had reasoned that since AAI's decision was in line with following a policy decision made by the Centre, the matter would amount to a challenge to the Central government, which can only be resolved through a petition under Article 131 of the Constitution.