The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked BJP leader Subramanian Swamy to file an amended plea, seeking to quash an alliance between Jet Airways and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, by also challenging the bilateral agreement between India and the UAE on increasing the number of flights. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was informed by Additional Solicitor General P S Narsimha, representing the Centre, that Swamy was to specifically challenge the agreement between India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on increasing the number of flights between India and the UAE.
Swamy told the bench, which also comprised Justices P C Pant and D Y Chandrachud, that he has already filed an amended plea in the matter.
“You (Swamy) have to file an application for amendment which has to be first allowed by this court,” the bench said, adding, “you have to file an amended application specifically challenging it.”
Swamy then sought four weeks time to file an amended plea which was allowed by the court.
The court had in March last year asked Swamy to implead other airlines as parties to the list as they may also get affected if the court decided either in favour or against the Jet-Etihad deal.
Swamy had earlier questioned the government’s decision to execute the agreement in favour of Abu Dhabi under the existing Air Services Agreement between the governments of India and UAE claiming that the lion’s share of seats would go to Etihad and the Indian carriers would lose.
He had said the seat-sharing agreements between India and UAE would adversely impact Indian interests.
Swamy, in his plea, has sought quashing of the deal alleging it was against public interest as there has been squandering of natural resources, that is the sky and the airspace.
In 2014, the court had sought the Centre’s response on Swamy’s interim pleas seeking the Cabinet note concerning Jet-Etihad Airways deal and copy of the transcript of tapped telephonic conversation of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia in which she had allegedly talked about the civil aviation sector.
Swamy, in his plea, has also referred that a memo sent by the PMO to Ministry of Civil Aviation on May 22, 2013 had raised serious reservations in respect of the growth of the middle eastern carriers including Etihad, the development of middle eastern hubs for servicing traffic from India at the cost and expense of Indian carriers as well as domestic hubs.
He had submitted that even the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has found there has been “reckless allocation” of airspace to foreign airlines.
In the first-ever investment by a foreign airline in an Indian carrier, Jet Airways had in November 2013 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 also sought a CBI probe against the government officials who had cleared the deal.