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Supreme Court to hear curative petition by Centre, AAI in Nagpur airport case

A four-judge Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on Friday, February 9, 2024, agreed to hear a curative petition filed by the Union government and the Airports Authority of India seeking a re-look of an apex court judgment which allowed the GMR Group to operate Nagpur’s Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport in 2022.

The Centre and the Authority (AAI) have argued that they were neither impleaded as parties or heard by the Supreme Court while upholding in 2022 a decision of Bombay High Court decision quashing a March 2020 communication issued by MIHAN, a joint venture between the Maharashtra Airport Development Company and AAI, cancelling an award granted to GMR to upgrade and operate the airport.

GMR had emerged as the highest bidder in the tender process conducted by MIHAN India Limited for the Nagpur Airport in 2019. The Letter of Award was issued to GMR in March 2019. However, the Maharashtra government had decided to annul the tender in March 2020.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, said ‘airways, aircraft and air navigation’ came in Entry 29 of the Union List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. The Union government and the AAI should have been made a party and heard in court.

Mr. Mehta said the AAI Act and the operations, maintenance and development regulations of airports refer to the Union government as a vital stakeholder.

Countering, senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, for GMR, said AAI had 26% shareholding in MIHAN, which was exhaustively heard by the court before the judgment. He questioned the maintainability of the curative petition. Mr. Singhvi said this was only an “intra-court appeal” dressed up as a curative petition. He argued that the grounds for a curative petition was either judicial bias or violation of the principles of natural justice. Neither can be agitated in this case, Mr. Singhvi submitted.

The court decided to hear the case after two weeks.

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