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HC tells CDS to hold meeting: National security could clip the wings of airport

A division bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli also put a caveat to the directions saying that though the infrastructure is extremely important for the airport, “more important is the national security”.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh | March 4, 2020 6:22:30 pm
HC tells CDS to hold meeting: National security could clip the wings of airport Chandigarh International Airport

PUTTING THE onus of taking a final decision regarding installation of CAT IIIB at the Chandigarh International Airport on the highest authorities of the country, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Tuesday ordered that the Chief of Defence Staff may hold a meeting with the Airports Authority of India and all other stakeholders for decision pertaining to the advanced lighting system and also for construction of the southern taxi track, a parallel runway, at the airport.

However, a division bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli also put a caveat to the directions saying that though the infrastructure is extremely important for the airport, “more important is the national security”. The observation is in line with submissions made by the Air Force, which has said that CAT IIIB installation at the airport “will entail demolition and relocation of most of the functional infrastructure of a military airfield as well as national air defence assets…”

CAT IIIB

The availability of CAT IIIB at the airport would allow the airlines to operate even at a minimum visibility of 50 metres and is touted as an important requirement for attracting airlines to start international flights from here with negligible chances of cancellations during foggy days.

During the resumed hearing of the case in which the High Court has been monitoring the upgradation of airport since 2015, Assistant Solicitor General of India Chetan Mittal submitted that the issues facing the CAT IIIB installation in the past two weeks have been taken up at the highest levels, including the Chief of Defence Staff. Mittal, however, added that the CAT IIIB installation would require the authorities to shift the newly constructed Air Traffic Control Tower and also demolish the old terminal building as the airlines under CAT IIIB have to have a clear pathway for a longer area. He added that other facilities like late-night operations are available.

The court initially observed that “you are dead sure to ensure that this does not come up”. During the course of hearing, the court also made it clear while it wants the airport to have all infrastructure, it would not want to compromise anything as it is the question of security of the whole country and not merely Chandigarh.

When Mittal informed the court that GoAir has decided to put on hold its proposal to start a direct flight to Thailand from here due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the division bench observed the problems come and go but “you must have the facilities to cater to international flights”. GoAir stated that most airlines operating flights to South East Asia have seen a sharp decline in demand to Thailand and neighbouring countries after the outbreak of coronavirus.

The court also reiterated that it was a big issue if they weren’t ready to start operations from here because of lack of CAT-IIIB. At the end of hearing, it was suggested that the Chief of Defence Staff be asked to hold a meeting over the issues. Three weeks’ time has been given to the authorities for the purpose.

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