The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the recent suo motu order of the Meghalaya High Court requiring the concerned authorities and the airliners to take a final decision as to from which date flights will start operating from the Umroi airport.
The division bench of the High Court, headed by its Chief Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir, had on December 7 directed the the Director General of Civil Aviation, the Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Chairman, Airports Authority of India to hold a meeting, also involving the responsible officers of airliners, in this behalf.
“The exercise shall be undertaken and completed positively without any fail within a period of seven days from today”, the impugned order stipulated.
Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing on behalf of Indigo, had mentioned the matter before CJI Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday- “It is an extraordinary case. It relates to a suo motu order passed by the Meghalaya High Court that the airlines and the civil aviation authorities must give a date to start the commercial services. There is no petition. No papers. The airport is not ready. The aircraft cannot land, no slots, no fire fighting!”
Urging that the bench hear the matter urgently, he had advanced, “Otherwise everybody from the Secretary to the airlines will have to appear. The judge says, ‘give me date to start’. We cant start!”
Dealing with a suo motu petition to operationalize the airport at Umroi and then to ensure taking off, landing of flights from Umroi to Delhi and to other metros, pending since 2016, the High Court noted the submissions of the officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the DGCA and the AAI- that the airliners are under an obligation to operate their flights as per the standing norms and procedures in various priority areas which include North East; and that the services of different categories of routes are in place under route dispersal guidelines wherein the North Eastern Region is also included.
“For a while it was amusement for us to hear the submissions of the said airliners which are absolutely in different directions. Finally, it is cleared that it is the Ministry of Civil Aviation which in effect is the regulating authority, has the power to take action against the erring airliners. Time is of essence, because 30.09.2018 was the outer limit for making the airport fully operational but for various reasons from time to time, requests of the concerned authorities were acceded to, as a result whereof, time limit got extended. But now there is no scope for extending time any further. For ensuring operation of the flights from Umroi airport to metros airport, mechanism has to be evolved so as to bring the said airliners on one page as to how they would start operating their airlines”, observed the High Court, adding that the airlines have taken the matter very lightly and not bothered to advance the public cause.
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