NEW DELHI: In a setback to the Kerala government, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected its plea against the decision by the Union government and the Airport Authority of India to allow the Adani Enterprises to operate, manage, and develop the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.
A bench of Chief Justice U U Lalit and justice Bela M Trivedi said there is no need to interfere with the High Court decision at this stage, since a private entity has been managing the operations of the airport since October, 2021.
"Considering the fact that the private entity has been in operation since October 2021, we see no reason to interfere," the bench said, dismissing the state government's petition.
The apex court also declined to entertain another plea filed by Airport Authority Employees Union (AAEU) and others challenging the High Court order, which had also rejected their plea.
The bench, however, kept open the question related to ownership of airport land.
In its arguments, the state government represented by senior advocate C U Singh contended before the bench that land on which the airport is situated belonged to the state government, and the state should get preferential rights.
He also alleged that RFP (request for proposal) was tailor-made to suit the Adani group.
However, the bench pointed out that the state government did not challenge the RFP conditions, rather participated in the bid.
The state government had challenged the Airports Authority of India (AAI) decision to prefer Adani over it for management of the airport.
Singh also claimed the decision was not in public interest as Adani Enterprises had no previous experience in managing this airport.
Further, he said this was also violative of the provisions of the Airports Authority of India Act.
The Union government, represented by Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj, defended the decision, saying the airport has been handed over to the private entity on October 14, 2021 and licence has also been issued.
The state government approached the Kerala High Court after losing the bid by the state-owned Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation and the GMR group. The High Court had in October 2020 rejected the plea to lease out the Thiruvananthapuram Airport to Adani Enterprises for 50 years.
Established in 1932, the airport was upgraded to as an international one in 1991.