Jet Airways-Etihad deal: Supreme Court to hear Subramanian Swamy’s plea after 12 weeks

The Supreme Court today said it would start the final hearing on the plea of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, seeking the quashing of the deal between Jet Airways and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, after 12 weeks.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud fixed Swamy’s plea for hearing after three months.

The BJP leader had amended the plea after the apex court directed him to also challenge the bilateral agreement between India and the UAE on increasing the number of flights between the two countries.

“We will list it for hearing after 12 weeks,” the bench said after Swamy submitted that he was seeking that the treaty between the two countries on giving access to air space to each other was set aside.

The court had, in March 2016, asked Swamy to implead other airlines as parties to the list as they might also get affected if the court decided either in favour or against the Jet-Etihad deal.

Swamy had earlier questioned the government’s decision to execute the agreement in favour of Abu Dhabi under the Air Services Agreement between the governments of India and the UAE, claiming that under the deal, the lion’s share of seats would go to Etihad and the Indian carriers would lose out.

He had also claimed that the seat-sharing agreements between India and the UAE would adversely impact Indian interests.

Swamy, in his plea, has sought the quashing of the deal, alleging that it was against public interest as there had been squandering of natural resources such as the airspace in the past.

In 2014, the court had asked the Centre to respond on Swamy’s interim pleas, seeking the cabinet note concerning the Jet-Etihad deal and a copy of the transcript of the tapped telephonic conversation of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, in which she had allegedly talked about the civil aviation sector.

Swamy, in his plea, has also referred to a memo sent by the PMO to the Ministry of Civil Aviation on May 22, 2013, raising reservations on the growth of the middle-eastern carriers, including Etihad, the development of middle-eastern hubs for servicing air traffic from India at the cost of the Indian carriers and domestic hubs.

He had submitted that even the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had found that there was “reckless allocation” of airspace to foreign airlines.

In the first-ever investment by a foreign airline in an Indian carrier, Jet Airways had in November 2013 announced its plans to sell 24 per cent equity to Etihad Airways for about Rs 2,058 crore, as part of a strategic alliance that would lead to a major expansion in their global network.

Swamy had also sought a CBI probe against the government officials who had cleared the deal.