New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday asked BJP leader Subramanian Swamy to amend his plea, seeking quashing of alliance between Jet Airways and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, by also challenging the bilateral agreement between India and United Arab Emirates (UAE) on increasing number of flights between the two countries.
A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice U U Lalit also asked Swamy to implead other airlines as parties to the list as they may also get affected if court decides in favour or against the Jet-Etihad deal.
Swamy later said he would make Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), Air India, IndiGo and Spicejet party in the case.
During a brief hearing, Additional Solicitor General P S Narsimha, appearing for the Centre, defended the deal saying that the agreement between two sovereign nations is an international treaty and cannot be challenged like this.
"How can this agreement become treaty?" the bench asked, adding that the Centre has not filed the entire records and observed, "You (Centre) have not filed the entire thing. You are taking us by surprise".
"The Parliamentary sub-committee and the CAG have opposed the agreement and this was done by previous UPA government to help Etisalat which lost a lot money due to cancellation of 2G spectrum licenses," Swamy said, adding that it is a scam running into nearly Es 9,500 crore.
The seat-sharing agreements between India and UAE adversely impacts Indian interests, he said.
Swamy has questioned the Centre's decision to execute the agreement in favour of Abu Dhabi under the existing Air Service Agreement between the governments of India and United Arab Emirates and lions share of seats goes to Etihad and various Indian carriers would lose.
The court has now fixed the plea, post amendment, for further hearing on July 19.
Swamy, in his plea, is seeking to quash the deal on the ground that it was against public interest as there has been squandering of natural resource i.E. The sky and air space.
Earlier in 2014, the court had sought Centre's response on
Swamy's interim pleas seeking 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 civil aviation sector.
The apex court had on December 6, 2013 made it clear that it would quash the Jet-Etihad Airways deal if there are any irregularities in it.
It had issued notice to Centre and Income Tax Department on his plea seeking direction to the government to place the transcript of tapped telephonic conversation of Radia in which she allegedly had talked about civil aviation sector.
Swamy, in his plea, also referred that the 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.
Swamy also submitted that even the CAG has found there has been reckless allocation of air space to foreign airlines.
Prior to this, the apex court had issued notices to the Centre, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of External Affairs, Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Jet Airways and Etihad Airways.
In the first-ever investment by a foreign airline in an Indian carrier, Jet Airways had on April 24 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 in his PIL sought "a direction to set aside and revoke any action or decision or grant of any further approvals/permissions/permits, etc. By the respondent (govt) authorities, based upon, relying upon or in furtherance of the impugned bilateral dated April 24".
Swamy had also sought a CBI probe against the government officials who had cleared the deal.
"The actions of the authorities from the execution of the bilateral to the unprecedented haste in order to assist the realisation of wrongful gains by the facilitator are writ large with acts of collusion and abuse of position," the petition had contended.