The Supreme Court Friday (February 28) remanded to the Kerala High Court the state government’s petition challenging the Airport Authority of India (AAI) proposal to grant the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport’s management rights to the Adani group.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde heard the submissions on behalf of the Kerala government and other parties and decided to send the dispute for adjudication back to the high court.
The bench, also comprising Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant, said the contention with regard to the applicability of Article 131 (which relates to the dispute between Centre and states) would remain open for a further hearing if needed.
The Kerala government had moved the high court and then the apex court against the proposal of the AAI to grant management and operation rights of the airport to the Adani Enterprises Limited for the next 50 years.
The Kerala High Court had on December 18 last year dismissed the plea filed by the state “as not maintainable” and said that the question raised in the petition has to be decided by the Supreme Court under Article 131 of the Constitution of India.
The state alleged before the high court that attempt on the part of AAI to grant right of operation, management and development of Thiruvananthapuram airport to a private party, “who has no previous experience in managing airports”, was not in public interest and was violative of the provisions of the Airport Authority of India Act, 1994 among others.
In its appeal filed in the apex court, the state has said that high court had “failed to appreciate that Article 131 of the Constitution does not contemplate any private party being arrayed as a party on one side or other”.
“It is submitted that for determining as to whether a suit before the Supreme Court under Article 131 of the Constitution has to be taken recourse to, it is necessary to consider whether the state can, in the facts of the given case, independently maintain a suit against the Government of India,” it has said.
The Adani group had won the bid to operate five out of six airports, including in Thiruvananthapuram, proposed for privatisation by the Centre.
The airport was established in 1932 on 258.06 acres of land owned by the princely state of Travancore, of which the state is the successor.
The land had been entered into the revenue records as government land.