HC seeks Centre's reply on Swamy's plea against nod to AirAsia

HC seeks Centre's reply on Swamy's plea against nod to AirAsia New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to respond to a plea filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking quashing of permission given to AirAsia for its operation in India.

The court, however, declined to stay the permission given by the government for the deal and said it was only issuing notices as of now.

The bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Pradeep Nandrajog issued notices to the Centre, Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) and Commerce and Civil Aviation ministries and sought their responses by October 30.

It asked the government to "file an affidavit explaining the government's policy on the issue".

In April, the FIPB gave clearance to the USD 30 million deal between Malaysia-based AirAsia and Tata Sons.

The petition opposes the clearance to the deal on the ground that as per the policy cleared by the Cabinet, foreign direct investment (FDI) up to 49 percent is allowed in existing airlines which are already in operations and not to new or proposed joint ventures.

The policy was brought to boost the aviation industry which was undergoing financial crisis, the petition said.

Swamy in his PIL alleged that it is "clearly contrary to the Foreign Direct Investment policy" and also against "the guidelines notified by the nodal ministry, the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, which does not permit foreign investment by a foreign airline, in such a greenfield airline".

Appearing for AirAsia, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Sighvi argued that the petition was "motivated" and that "the object of PIL is to create a cloud over the deal so that the project does not go forward".

Singhvi said the company's application for flying licence is still pending and hence the petition was "premature".

PTI