In a significant legal development, the Supreme Court has greenlit the examination of a petition lodged by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) against the GMR Group concerning the operations at Nagpur Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport. The court is slated to delve into the intricacies of the case in two weeks.
The apex Supreme Court emphasized the need for a thorough examination before reaching any conclusions, underscoring the complexity of the matter at hand.
Background and Legal Maneuvers
This latest curative petition by the AAI follows the Supreme Court’s validation in May 2022 of the Bombay High Court’s decision, permitting GMR to manage the airport. The subsequent rejection of the review petition in May 2023 left the AAI with the option of filing a curative petition, the ultimate recourse when a review petition is exhausted.
The challenge against the high court’s ruling was initiated by the Multi-modal International Cargo Hub and Airport at Nagpur (MIHAN), a collaborative effort between the Maharashtra Airport Development Company and the Airports Authority.
The Crux of the Matter
At the core of the dispute lies the development of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport as part of the Nagpur Multimodal International Hub Airport (MIHAN) project. This ambitious project aims to transform Nagpur into an international air cargo and passenger hub.
GMR secured the operation with an initial bid of 5.76% of the gross revenue, later raised to 14.49% during negotiations. Despite fiscal challenges in 2016-17, the airport turned a profit of ₹49 crore the following year. Concerns were raised by the civil aviation ministry regarding GMR’s contract offer and revenue-sharing arrangement.
The crux of the matter revolves around MIHAN’s low revenue realization despite a surge to ₹49 crore. The ministry and the state government’s project monitoring committee expressed expectations of further revenue growth with projected passenger volume increases.
GMR defended itself, attributing the profit surge to an augmented user development fee for enhanced passenger facilities. The impasse led GMR to seek court intervention for the contract’s implementation.
Legal Wrangling and Union Government’s Stand
The legal battle intensified as the Union government argued its exclusion from prior proceedings, emphasizing its crucial role in airport matters under its jurisdiction. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asserted that no case related to airport operations could proceed without the Union government as a party.
Mehta further conveyed that the annulment of GMR’s bidding process stemmed from issues related to revenue sharing, signaling a multifaceted legal tussle.
In a complex web of legalities and competing interests, the Supreme Court’s impending hearing holds the key to resolving the intricacies surrounding Nagpur Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport’s operations.