Election Commission approached on Tata-AirAsia deal: HC informed

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 13 2014, 03:38am hrs
AirAsia IndiaIn its plea, FIA has sought quashing of the approval granted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to the airline. (AP)
The Delhi High Court was today informed that the Election Commission has been approached to decide whether further approvals to operationalise the USD 30 million deal between Tata Sons and Malaysia-based AirAsia would violate the model code of conduct.

"In any case, the issue will finally be decided by the next government. The Election Commission of India is looking into the question as to whether any further order will violate the mode code of conduct," BJP leader Subramanian Swamy told a bench headed by Acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed.

The court considered the plea and fixed the matter for further hearing on April 23.

The bench, also comprising Justice Siddharth Mridul, asked the high court registry to list a fresh plea of Swamy seeking initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against an official of finance ministry for allegedly making false statement in a reply filed on behalf of the Centre on October 25, last year.

In his contempt plea, Swamy claimed that the official had stated that issues of "substantial ownership" and "effective control" of the airline, prior to grant of approval for FDI, was to be decided by the DGCA.

However, DGCA in its February 21 public notice had said that FIPB is the competent authority to decide the same and it had examined these issues and taken a decision in April 2013.

Swamy contended that based on the false statement of the official, the high court had refused to grant him any interim relief.

He has alleged the USD 30 million joint venture, between Tata Sons and Malaysia based AirAsia Berhad, had to show before the FIPB that the airline would be essentially controlled by Indians, but this has not been done.

The court was hearing the PIL which is opposing clearance to the deal on the ground that according to government policy, foreign direct investment (FDI) up to 49 per cent is allowed in existing airlines which are already in operation and not to new or proposed joint ventures.

A separate plea on the issue has also been filed by Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) opposing the go-ahead given to AirAsia to begin its flight operations in India.

The court, which had sought responses from Centre, AirAsia and Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), today did not allow the plea of FIA that in the meantime, no further approvals be granted to Tata's joint venture.

In its plea, FIA has sought quashing of the approval granted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to the airline.

FIA has moved the high court after the Director General of Civil Aviation on February 21 granted a permit to AirAsia to commence its scheduled air operations.

During earlier hearing, the court had asked the Centre, the airline and other respondents to file their replies to an additional affidavit of Swamy that the authorities before the court are either "false and misleading" or the Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA) "has acted illegally and in utter disregard of law".

Swamy, on being ordered by the apex court, had filed the PIL in the high court seeking various reliefs including setting aside of all "approvals/permissions" granted to the Tata-AirAsia joint venture.

He had also filed two applications, which had been earlier decided, seeking interim relief of stay on decision taken on April 3, 2013 by the Centre and restraining it from granting any further approval/NOC to the joint venture.

The two interim pleas have been dismissed by the high court and the Supreme Court had refused to pass any interim direction to the Centre on granting various clearances and license to fly.

The apex court had also made it clear that the outcome of the pending petition in the high court will affect the joint venture deal.