Why only lucrative routes given to private airlines, asks SC

New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday took exception to the government allowing the private airlines to operate on “lucrative routes” while escaping from flying on the less profitable destinations.

“You are giving lucrative destinations on platter to private operators. Cream is taken away by big operators,” said a bench of Chief Justice T.S.Thakur, Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, adding the operators are allowed to shun less profitable routes. AAA

Asking the government to file an affidavit spelling out its licencing policy, Chief Justice Thakur said: “You must have a policy by which if they get lucrative sectors (to operate) then they have to cater to uneconomical destinations.”

“File an affidavit by the government setting out the policy, if any, governing the allotment/grant of licence to operate commercial/scheduled airlines in various sectors within and outside the country,” said the order passed by the bench as it directed the next hearing of the matter on March 9.

“We will direct you to attach such a condition, that if want to fly on lucrative sectors, then you fly to Shimla (uneconomical destinations) also,” said the court in the course of the hearing of a plea by Air India against the Himachal Pradesh High Court’s December 7 order asking it to commence flights on trial basis connecting Shimla with Delhi by air.

Additional Solicitor General P.S.Patwalia appearing for the government told the court that he had tried to persuade the national carrier to operate on Delhi-Shimla sector but they cite the estimated loss of Rs.1 crore in bringing it on the air map.

The national carrier has earlier told the court that the flight connecting Shimla with Delhi was not economical as there were 12 to 15 one way passengers only, and that Shimla airport did not have refuelling facilities.

However, the court was told on Tuesday that all the operational problems at Shimla airport have been overcome and tests flights are being undertaken.

The apex court had on December 16, 2015, ordered status quo, putting on hold the December 7 high court direction.

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