The CBI on Monday registered a preliminary enquiry against unknown officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) for irregularities in lease of government land to DIAL during the UPA government’s tenure.
According to the CBI, certain officials allegedly committed gross misconduct while leasing out 190 acres belonging to AAI at the Indira Gandhi International Airport to DIAL at a nominal price.
The alleged irregularities were flagged in a CAG report in March 2012 on the implementation of public-private partnership for Indira Gandhi International Airport.
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According to CAG, DIAL paid an upfront fee of Rs 150 crore to AAI on April 29, 2006. When handing over the airport to DIAL, the AAI transferred 4608.9 acres — termed as “demised premises” — to DIAL. The AAI kept to itself a land area of 497.10 acres, termed as “carved-out assets”.
In a meeting on March 6, 2009, the AAI Board decided to lease out an additional 190.19 acres from the carved-out assets to DIAL for aeronautical purposes as per the provisions of Operation Management and Development Agreement (OMDA).
“It would be seen that the upfront fee was used as a base to calculate the price for the additional land provided. This allowed AAI to lease out an additional 190.19 acres at a meagre Rs 6.19 crore,” the CAG report stated.
In sharp contrast to the AAI Board’s decision, in March 2011, the AG, AAI, decided to lease out 7.6 acres from the carved-out assets to Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security. These offices were charged a annual licence fee at a concessional rate of 50 per cent, amounting to Rs 2.41 crore per year with an annual escalation clause.
“Application of the same concessional licence fee with the same escalation clause for 190.19 acres would amount to Rs 4,534 crore for a period of 27 years. Contrasting this, the land has been leased to DIAL effectively for 60 years against a one-time payment of
Rs 6.19 crore,” the CAG report stated.
The Civil Aviation Ministry told CAG in March 2012 that the 190.19 acres was purely for aeronautical purposes and cannot be used for any commercial purposes.
However, the CAG report stated, “Ministry has not been able to provide a convincing reply as to why a private operator should be levied a fee which is much lower than that fixed by the government for its own departments.”
A statement issued by GMR Group — DIAL is a consortium with GMR Group as lead member — read, “We are not aware of any such preliminary enquiry registered with the CBI and neither did we receive any communication on this matter from any agency. The allegation that the government unduly gave us the land at a much lesser rate, which has caused a huge financial loss to it, is baseless, unfounded and devoid of any legal foundation.”
“Land transfer was done strictly as per the OMDA provisions and after receiving all the necessary approvals from the stakeholders — Government of India, AAI and others. The 190.19 acres was part of “excluded premises”as defined under OMDA and was included in the bidding document that was made available to all participants during the bidding process,” GMR said.
Praful Patel, who was civil aviation minister at the time, said, “If the CBI has any reason to look into it, they are most welcome to. Everything was done through a bid where 5 per cent of land use was permitted. All these things have been approved and were part of the bid document. The bidding and award of contract, including the signing of OMDA, was carried out under the supervision of the empowered group of ministers (EGOM) on privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports. Every full stop and comma was approved by the EGOM.”