Petition alleges grant of largesse of national asset in favour of a foreign airline

The Supreme Court on Friday posted for hearing on October 8 a writ petition filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, challenging the Etihad Airways-Jet Airways deal approved by the Union Cabinet on Thursday.

A Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi directed the petition to be listed for hearing on a mention made by Dr. Swamy about the urgency.

In his petition, Dr. Swamy alleged there had been a grant of largesse of national asset in favour of a foreign airline (Etihad Airways) resulting in undue enrichment and enormous pecuniary advantage to such foreign airline at the cost and expense of the public, national and domestic airlines as well as airports.

He said “In order to facilitate the execution of this colossal fraud on the Indian exchequer, the foreign airline has agreed to guarantee personal loans as well as pay a premium towards its foreign investment in a domestic airlines — Jet Airways. Such grant of largesse is in the form of an unprecedented increase of capacity entitlements through execution of Bilateral/MoU in favour of Abu Dhabi under existing Air Service Agreement between the government of India and the United Arab Emirates.”

“The fact is that the negotiations, meetings and discussions of the bilateral/MoU, through which the Government of India granted a largesse of increase of capacity entitlement up to 50,000 seats per week from existing 13,330 seats per week in favour of Etihad Airways, was undertaken in Abu Dhabi. As per the negotiations, Etihad Airways was to invest and purchase 24% of the shareholding of Jet Airways (India) Ltd., at an enormous premium by way of preferential allotment,” the petitioner said.

Dr. Swamy said that it was a record that in less than 48 hours after the meeting of the group of Ministers, which acceded to the “unrealistic demands” of Etihad, the bilateral/MoU was signed in Abu Dhabi on April 24. Simultaneously, the announcement by Etihad was made “on the same date, at the same time and at the same place”.

He sought a direction for ordering a probe under the supervision of the court into the execution of the bilateral; enrichment of foreign party at the cost of the Indian exchequer; the antecedents of the facilitator; and diversion of benefits to the facilitator.