A writ petition has been filed in the Kerala High Court challenging the Cochin Port Trust’s decision to discontinue operations at the Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal, following the commissioning of the International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT), Vallarpadom, operated by India Gateway Terminal Private Ltd. (IGTPL).
The petition was filed by B. Hamza, general secretary, Cochin Port Labour Union. The petitioner said that a proviso regarding discontinuation of the old port’s operations had been incorporated in the licence agreement through amendments after the acceptance of the financial bid of the licencee (IGTPL). The amendments had bestowed undue favours on the licencee at the cost of public exchequer. The largesse of the ‘licensor’ (CPT) was mainly responsible for the financial crisis of the CPT, forcing it to lease out its assets to private parties on flexible terms.
The petitioner said that around 4,000 workers had been deprived of their legitimate right to employment and constitutional right to live in dignity, with the cessation of all container related activities by the CPT from February 18, 2011. The CPT had also lost the right to handle coastal vessels for the next 30 years. He said that during meetings, the port had assured the leaders of the recognized unions that the existing labourers would be allowed to continue apart from retaining the port’s right to enjoy the right of handling cargo/containers after the licencee shifted its operations to the ICTT.
The port sought to justify termination of operations stating that the licence agreement signed with the licencee in 2005 contained clauses which did not exist in the draft licence agreement that had been circulated publicly for the bidding process.
The petitioner sought a directive to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India to compute the revenue gain to the licencee and the corresponding revenue loss to the licensor on account of the amendments made to the licence agreement dated January 31, 2005.