SC admits PIL by Subramanian Swamy against Jet-Etihad deal

The Supreme Court today admitted a public interest litigation (PIL) by Subramanian Swamy seeking quashing of approvals granted to Etihad Airways for the acquisition of a 24 per cent stake in Jet Airways (India) Ltd.

The court, however, refused to grant an interim stay on the deal.

According to the bench headed by chief justice P Sathasivam, the bench needed to hear from all concerned parties, including the ministry of civil aviation, department of industrial policy and promotion, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, commerce ministry, foreign investment promotion board, finance ministry, Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and Jet Airways.

All parties have been given four weeks to respond to the notice.

The bench also asked Swamy if he had received any response to the letter that he wrote to the PMO stating his objections to the deal, in which the Abu Dhabi-base Etihad had in April agreed to purchase a 24-per cent stake in the carrier.

At the same time, India agreed to approve an unprecedented 36,670 seats on weekly flights between India and the UAE which were seen to sweeten the deal's passage.

The Rs2,058-crore deal was finally cleared by India's cabinet, the first such investment since the government eased ownership rules for foreign airlines on 4 October, according to aviation minister Ajit Singh.

The bench said it would consider Swamy's petition, adding it could not pass any order but would issue notice and let the government file the reply.

The bench also took note of Swamy's reply to its question that he had not received any response from the prime minister on the issue when he had made a representation before him, the report said.

Before it passed the order, the bench said it had gone through Swamy's petition and spent over an hour on it.

Swamy submitted during the brief hearing, that the deal was against public interest as there had been squandering of natural resource i.e, the sky and air space. 

He claimed that the deal had been cleared against the advice of the Parliament Select Committee and other advisory bodies.

He further submitted that even the CAG had found that there has been reckless allocation of air space to foreign airlines.

The nine respondents to whom notices have been include the centre, the finance ministry, commerce ministry, the external affairs ministry, Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Jet Airways and and Etihad Airways.