New Delhi: After the Kerala government on Friday moved the High Court seeking a stay on the Union Cabinet’s decision to privatise the Thiruvananthapuram airport, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri took to Twitter and said the government could have refused before instead of taking part in the bid. Also Read - Indian Airlines Seeking Interest-free Credit Line of at Least USD 1.5 Billion: Aviation Minister Puri

“Kerala is the pioneer as far as airports under Public Private Partnership are concerned. First PPP airport in India came up in Kochi in Kerala. It is a successfully run airport with a capacity of 13 Million Passengers Per Annum and was handling 9.62 MPPA in 2019-20 before COVID19,” Puri wrote. Also Read - No Service in Containment zones, Only Asymptomatics Allowed: Centre Issues SOPs on Metro Services

“Another very successful example of PPP mode is Kannur, also situated in Kerala. In fact, it was during the UDF regime in Kerala that the foundation for Kochi airport was laid in 1994 & the airport was inaugurated in 1999 during LDF regime,” the minister added. Also Read - Govt Should Not Run Airports, Airlines; Hopeful of Privatising Air India This Year, Says Puri

Delhi and Mumbai airports which together handle approx 33% of India’s passenger traffic movement were privatised in 2006-07 under PPP mode by Congress-led UPA Govt. In comparison the 6 airports now being handed over, only handle less than 10% of the country’s total passenger traffic, the Union minister wrote.

“If Kerala Govt is against privatisation, then why did it participate in the bidding process? State Govt was given a fair chance & Right of First Refusal (RoFR) if their bid was within 10% below the range of the highest bid. However, they bid 19.64 % below,” Hardeep Singh Puri wrote.

“Then they approached Hon’ble Kerala High Court which dismissed the petition in Dec 2019. Petitioners then filed an SLP in Hon’ble SC. Apex Court remitted the matter back to Hon’ble Kerala High Court. There is no stay in the case either by Hon’ble SC or Hon’ble Kerala High Court,” the minister added.

The minister also clarified what will happen if the court ruling goes in favour of the Kerala government. “If the petitioners succeed and outcome of litigation leads to annulment/cancellation of the bidding process then the Concessionaire will handover the possession of airport to AAI. They will be entitled to refund of the amount paid to AAI & additional investments made in the assets,” the minister clarified.

The Concessionaire will also not demand any damages from AAI. Here it should be borne in mind that these airports will come back to AAI after the lease period of 50 years, the minister explained.

Further, sovereign functions like Customs, Security, Immigration, Plant & Animal Quarantine, Health Services, Communication & Navigation Surveillance / Air Traffic Management services will continue to be provided by the Government agencies, Puri said.