Staff Reporter

All flight operations start from BIAL same time, same day

BANGALORE: It is official. The HAL Airport will close down commercial airline operations from May 22 midnight and the new international airport at Devanahalli (Bengaluru International Airport Limited) will become operational from that day.

This was stated by BIAL when it placed before the High Court a gazette notification issued by the Centre on May 16, closing down commercial airline operations at the HAL Airport from May 22 midnight and simultaneously permitting BIAL to commence operations.

BIAL counsel and former Advocate-General Uday Holla, who placed the notification before a Division Bench comprising Justice Rammohan Reddy and Justice Jawed Rahim, said both domestic and international flight operations from the new airport would commence from May 22 midnight.

BIAL made the submission when the court was hearing an interlocutory application (IA) by B. Krishna Bhat, a resident of Bangalore, seeking a direction to the Centre and Airports Authority of India (AAI) to keep the HAL Airport open for domestic flight operations.

Infrastructure issues

Mr. Bhat said along with others, he had earlier filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition questioning the proposed closure of the HAL Airport simultaneously with the commissioning of the international airport at Devanahalli. He said the infrastructure to reach Devanahalli Airport was not ready. Moreover, crores of rupees had been spent in 2006-07 to provide better infrastructure not only at HAL Airport but also to reach it. This expenditure would be a waste of public money if HAL Airport were to be closed to civilian traffic. He said, after filing of the writ petition, he was able to get a copy of “131st Report of Parliamentary Standing Committee on transport, tourism and culture on the subject of closure of Bangalore and Hyderabad Airport”.

The committee, he said, unanimously felt and recommended that the existing airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad should not be closed for commercial operations to make way for the commissioning of the private green field airports. The committee had also pointed out that this was the first time in the country that Government-owned airports built on the tax payers’ money was being closed for the commissioning of the private green field airports where profit earning is the main motto rather than the service to passengers.

User development fee

He said though the High Court had rejected his interim prayer for a direction to the respondents — Centre, AAI and State — not to close down the HAL Airport, it had specifically directed the Centre and AAI to immediately consider its suggestion to renegotiate the issues regarding closure of HAL Airport and the levying of user development fee (UDF), and to explore the possibility of minimising, if not completely removing the inconvenience and difficulties of the people. Mr. Bhat said he had filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court after the High Court refused to grant an interim order. The Supreme Court, he said, had also declined to grant any order after the Centre submitted that it would renegotiate the issue of closure of HAL airport and UDF with BIAL. But, no serious effort was made to renegotiate the issues when talks were held with BIAL.

He alleged that even though the transport infrastructure to Devenahalli is not fully ready, the decision to close the HAL Airport was taken at the behest of BIAL so that when the case came up again before the High Court, it could be told that the matter had become infructuous. Thus, the decision to close down HAL Airport was against the direction of the High Court. The Bench adjourned further hearing on the matter to May 22.