SC directs govt to consider closure of HAL airport

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New Delhi, May 5 (UNI) The Supreme Court today directed the Union government to consider the issue of closure of the HAL Bangalore International Airport, taking into account the pros and cons of the matter and to act according to law.

Earlier senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the petitioner contended before the bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice M K Sharma that the government should not feel that it is hopelessly bound by the terms of the contract with private players and cannot act in public interest.

He also contended that the settled law of the land is that statutory powers cannot be curtailed by a contract and the Union government has the power to overule the private players not withstanding any agreement or contract. He submitted before the court that the government should not feel helpless to the extent that it is bound hand and foot by the agreement.

The apex court also directed that the Union government shall place before the Karnataka High Court its decision taken in the matter.

Senior counsel K K Venugopal, appearing for the consortium which includes the Larsen and Toubro, Karnataka government and three others contended that the agreement was signed in 2000 and its clients have already invested Rs 2400 crores for the construction of the Bangalore International Airport and the present capacity of the Airprt is 13 million and his clients proposed to enhance it to 40 million.

He also contended that they have already given contracts worth Rs 100 crores to other contracters.

Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium told the Court, ''the government is neither hopeless nor helpless in dealing with the matter and shall take into consideration all the pros and cons of the matter and act in larger public interest in accordance with law as the government is not supposed to act illegally.'' The proposal for the new Bangalore International Airport was approved by the union cabinet on March 20, 2000.

Mr Salve also contended before the court that the new airport should not be out of bounds for commercial aviation and the government should not mortgage the public interest.

The Union Civil Aviation Ministry has already made it clear the HAL airport shall not be closed down till the end of this month.

The High Court shall hear the matter on merits.

UNI SC LPB MIR KP1320

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