Patna HC asks Bihar govt for update on Sonepur airport status

The Patna High Court has asked the Bihar government about the status of Sonepur airport, proposed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in August 2021.

The court’s direction came as it heard a Public Interest Litigation filed by Abhijit Kumar Pandey.

Arguing before a bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjay Karol, Supreme Court lawyer Varun Singh, appearing for the petitioner, said that Bihar has three operational airports in Patna, Gaya and Darbhanga but none of them match international standards.

“The Jay Prakash Narayan airport in Patna is the smallest in the country still having international status but the facilities are absolutely below standard. The stripe of the runway of Patna airport is just 1,950 metres which is much below the normal size of an airport in the country. In the past 20 years, there were two plane crashes here – in 2000 and 2010, still the Bihar government did not expand it or come up with new airports having international standards,” he said.

Generally, a larger aircraft, including wide-bodied aircraft, required at least 2,400 metres. Aircraft like Airbus 320 require at least 3,200 metres runway.

Bihar is the only state with population over 12 crore and yet it does not have an International Airport.

Bihta airport, which has been given a go ahead, is an Indian Air Force airport converted to civil aviation, but surrounded by local population. Bihta airport needed 100 acre land currently held by local residents and the expected time of land acquisition is at least 10 years.

Keeping this in view, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia wrote a letter to the Bihar Chief Minister on August 25, 2021 seeking permission to construct an airport in Sonepur town in Saran district.

In the PIL, the petitioner highlighted 2,300 acre of free land in Sonepur town without any human occupancy, and with the total cost of acquisition being Rs 440 crore, “which is nothing compared to land acquiring cost adjoining Patna, Bihta, Gaya and Darbhanga airports. It will also have the capacity to cater to traffic of the state for the next 50 years”.

“State government is not giving approval for the construction of a new airport in Sonepur which is close to Patna compared to Bihta. The proposed site is just 5 km away from JP Setu. Moreover, the Bihar government need not to take financial burden. The construction of an airport is a Central government subject and its cost will be taken care of by the Centre. The role of the Bihar government is to acquire the land and hand it over to the Civil Aviation Ministry,” Singh said.

“The high court has directed the Bihar government to respond to the PIL during the next hearing scheduled on April 18,” he said.

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