SC asks if private airlines catering to northeastern states

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New Delhi, March 15 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to tell it if the scheduled private airlines were strictly adhering to policy of operating 10 percent of their flights in the northeastern region, Jammu and Kashmir, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

Asking the DGCA to file an affidavit stating if the 10 percent of the total flights of scheduled private airlines were operating in these regions and other places, a bench of Chief Justice T.S.Thakur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit also sought information on the monitoring of the implementation of this policy.

The bench which had in the last hearing of the matter asked the government why private airlines were being allowed to operate on lucrative routes and allowing them to escape from flying on less profitable destinations, on Tuesday said: “There has to be a uniform policy requiring these (scheduled private airlines) airlines to fly to uneconomical routes.”

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The court sought details on the enforcing of its policy in the course of the hearing of a petition by national carrier Air India challenging the Himachal Pradesh High Court’s December 7 order asking it to commence flights on trial basis to connect Shimla with Delhi by air.

It brushed aside the arguments by Additional Solicitor Gewneral P.S.Patwalia that the national carrier will have to operate smaller aircraft as the airstrip at Shimla airport was small.

Appearing for the Air India, Patwalia said that if they operate 42 seat aircraft that they are using at Kulu airport, then half of the seats had to be kept vacant as the aircraft with full passenger capacity becomes too heavy and can’t take-off.

“It will not be possible for us to accept the argument that airlines don’t have aircraft that can land or take off from Shimla airport,” Chief Justice Thakur told Patwalia as court directed the next hearing of the matter on April 13.

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Besides other issues, ASG Patwalia also told the court that like other states in northeast, the Himachal Pradesh government too will have to give Air India some subsidy to meet the gap in the revenue earning and actual operational cost.

The national carrier had earlier told the court that the flight connecting Shimla with Delhi was not economical as there were 12 to 15 one-way passengers only.

The apex court had on December 16, 2015, ordered status quo thereby putting on hold the December 7 high court direction.

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