Bangalore: The Karnataka high court has directed the government and shareholders of the Bangalore International Airport Ltd (Bial), the company building a new airport on the outskirts of Bangalore, to rework a contract that mandates closure of an existing airport in the city and levying of user development fees for passengers on domestic flights.
The negotiation between the stakeholders and the government is “to make sure that inconvenience to the travelling passengers is minimized if not completely removed,” an interim order by the high court chief justice Joseph Cyriac said on Wednesday.
A view of the Bangalore International Airport
Spokespersons for Bial, the Union civil aviation ministry and the Karnataka government, shareholders in the company, declined to comment saying they were yet to receive a copy of the court’s order. The high court goes for its summer vacation from Thursday.
The contract, called the concession agreement, signed by Bial with the government mandates that the existing airport owned by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, or HAL, should cease commercial operations once the new airport at Devanahalli, 35km from Bangalore, opens on 11 May. The contract signed in June 2004 says no airport should operate in a distance of 150km from the Bial airport.
Bial has revised passenger traffic projections at least four times to 13 million in 2008 from initial estimates of 5 million passengers in 2004 due to the civil aviation boom in India .
The division bench of justices Cyriac and B.V. Nagaratna declined to stay the closure of the HAL airport or the opening of the new airport on 11 May in response to four public interest litigations filed by a lawyer G.R. Mohan and entrepreneur R.K. Mishra.
The petitioners cited the lack of connectivity from the city to the new airport and the rise in passenger traffic for keeping the existing airport open.
A high speed rail network is being planned to connect the airport and the state is widening existing roads for better traffic flow from the city.
The court said its order was based on observations made by the standing committee of Parliament on transport, tourism and culture “to renegotiate with the concessionaire and either modify or scrap the clause which facilitates the closure of the existing airports”. The committee made these remarks in its report on airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad.
“We will wait for the next two weeks, if there is a delay in them coming to the negotiating table, we may have to approach the Supreme Court,” said Mohan.
The Bial airport was initially to open on 30 April, but was delayed due to technical glitches.
The company said it will reduce the user development fee to Rs240 from Rs675 for the first two months of its operations.