The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought response from the Centre on a petition filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking a stay on the Jet-Etihad Airways deal.
The apex court issued notices to the Centre, ministries and departments concerned, Jet Airways and UAE’s Etihad Airways on the petition challenging the deal and sought their responses within four weeks.
A bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi said it will not straightaway pass any order and would seek Centre’s response on it.
“We have to consider your petition. We cannot pass any order. We will issue notice. Let them file the reply,” the bench said.
The bench also took note of Swamy’s reply to its question that there was no response from the Prime Minister on the issue when he had made a representation before him.
Before passing the order, the bench also said it had gone through Swamy’s petition and spent more than an hour on it.
During the brief hearing, Swamy submitted that the deal was against public interest as there has been squandering of natural resource i.e. the sky and air space.
He claimed that the deal was cleared against the advice of the Parliament Select Committee and other advisory bodies.
Swamy also submitted that even the CAG has found that there has been reckless allocation of air space to foreign airlines.
The nine respondents to whom notices have been issued are the Centre, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of External Affairs, Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Jet Airways and and Etihad Airways.
In the first—ever investment by a foreign airline in an Indian carrier, Jet Airways had on April 24 announced plans to sell 24 per cent equity to Etihad Airways for about Rs 2,058 crore, as part of a strategic alliance that would lead to a major expansion in their global network.
Swamy had in his PIL sought “a direction to set aside and revoke any action or decision or grant of any further approvals/permissions/permits, etc. by the respondent(govt) authorities, based upon, relying upon or in furtherance of the impugned bilateral dated April 24.”
“The petitioner challenges such arbitrary, irrational and malafide act of grant of largesse in the form of bilateral/ MoU dated April 24 and by way of the present petition seeks an investigation under the supervision of this Court into the matters of national and public interest,” he has said in his petition.
He has also sought a CBI probe against the government officials who had cleared the deal.
He questioned the Centre’s decision to execute the agreement in favour of Abu Dhabi under the existing Air Service Agreement between the governments of India and United Arab Emirates.
“The actions of the authorities from the execution of the bilateral to the unprecedented haste in order to assist the realisation of wrongful gains by the facilitator are writ large with acts of collusion and abuse of position,” the petition contended.