The Supreme Court today rejected the Centre’s appeal against a Delhi High Court order holding as unconstitutional the exclusion of existing airports, developed under public-private partnership (PPP) model, from the benefit of liberalised use of land under the new civil aviation policy. A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer upheld the high court order which had said that all airports and their operators running them under PPP model, would get equal benefits of the schemes of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) announced last year. The Centre had approached the Supreme Court alleging that the high court order was “erroneous”. The high court had on April 10 held that the classification drawn between the existing PPP airports and future PPP airports in last year’s NCAP violated the right to equality provided under Article 14 of the Constitution.
Under NCAP, which came into effect from June last year, existing airports such as Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport were restricted from commercially utilising their land for providing non-aeronautical services like bank ATMs, hotels, motels or general retail shopping centres. The high court had directed the Centre to take necessary steps to extend the benefit of liberalised use of airport land as per NCAP 2016 to the Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) in respect of IGI Airport on par with the existing and future airports of Airport Authority of India (AAI). The high court order had come on a plea of DIAL, a joint venture between AAI and the GMR Group, challenging its exclusion under the new aviation policy.
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It had also said that excluding existing PPP airports was against larger public interest as the economic activity in the vicinity of the existing PPP airports would remain stagnant. It would also deprive the passengers of the benefits that they would get in other PPP airports which did not face such restrictions or exclusions, it had said.