To the surprise and shock of Kerala Government and the people of Kerala, the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by Kerala government questioning the judgment of Kerala High Court, confirmed the lease agreement entered into by the Central government letting out the management of Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL). While upholding the judgment of the Kerala High Court, the Supreme Court held there is no illegality in leasing out the airport to Adani group.
However, taking the objective of the Constitution as envisaged in the preamble, doubt arises in the minds of the people whether the law can over ride the Constitutional purpose and objective. A bench comprising Chief Justice of India UU Lalit and Justice Bela M Trivedi dismissed the Special Leave Petitions filed by Kerala government and some unions of the employees of the airport. The lease was given to AEL in October 2020.
When the actual decision was taken, the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC), a state-owned corporation, participated in the bid. The bid of the KSIDC was Rs. 168 per passenger whereas the bid of AEL was Rs. 135 per passenger. Since the KSIDC bid was less by 20 percent of the top bid, it was rejected. The court noted that the High Court ‘rightly rejected’ the challenge in these circumstances.
The employees were given option to either continue under the private management or switch to the airports under the management of Airports Authority (AAI). Cochi international airport is under the management of AAI.
The airport has been in operation by the private entity since October 2021. The SC bench said it can see no reason to interfere in the Kerala HC judgment. The court has left open the issue regarding the ownership of the land. The State of Kerala and AAI are claiming the ownership of the land. Senior Advocate CU Singh appeared for the State and Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj for the AAI.
CU Singh told the court that the land in which the airport is located belongs to the State government. The State had spent money to acquire additional land for the airport. Therefore, he argued, the State should have preferential rights. He said the conditions set for the lease were tailor made to suit Adani group. The Additional Solicitor General said the HC judgment made it clear that the State government had agreed to the proposal of leasing out to Adani group.