Home / News / India /  HC rejects Kerala govt's plea against lease of airport to Adani group

BENGALURU: The Kerala High Court on Monday rejected all petitions, including one by the state government, against the Centre's decision to hand over to Adani Enterprises Ltd the operations of the international airport at Thiruvananthapuram.

The order clears the plans of Adani Enterprises to operate the airport for which the company had won rights in an auction in August.

The state government argued that the 50-year contract to run the airport is not in public interest. It said the airport is currently situated in prime land owned by it, which makes a state government-floated Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for airport management entitled to a preferential consideration over Adani Enterprises as per Section 12A of Airports Authority of India (AAI) Act, 1994.

However, the high court rejected its argument. The state government is likely to appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court, according to people privy with the talks in the state.

The state government was given first priority in the bidding process by the AAI, to the extent that if the bid value came within the 10% range of the winning bid, it would be awarded the work. But there was a difference of 19.64% between the bid by the state government and the winning bid by Adani Entreprises.

The matter was heard by the high court after the Supreme Court directed Kerala's CPM-led state government to approach the high court. Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had earlier said the award will be subject to the outcome of this petition. Kerala had also passed a unanimous resolution in the assembly opposing the same and moved the Supreme Court.

At the crux of the debate is the question of transferring public land.

The government claims that it had previously transferred 23.57 acres, estimated to be worth 250 crore now, to AAI, which was operating the airport until now. It claims the land was transferred free of cost for construction of the airport's international terminal, subject to the condition that the value of the land would be reflected as its share capital in a state-run company, when the airport is privatised. The government is in the process of taking over another 300 acres of prime land for the airport, and has threatened to not cooperate with the AAI if the airport operationa are given to a private company.

However, many, including central BJP leaders and at least one Congress leader, Trivandrum MP Shashi Tharoor, have dismissed the government's demands. Tharoor differed with his party that had joined hands with the ruling government in the state to oppose the matter in the assembly.

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