Supreme Court strikes down airport development fee by private operators

The Supreme Court today struck down the airport development fee (ADF) being charged by private operators.

The apex court bench of justice R V Raveendran and justice A K Patnaik passed the order on the ADF, on a petition by an NGO, Consumer Online Foundation.

Air travelers would now have to pay Rs200 less for tickets for domestic travel and Rs1,300 less for international travel from Delhi. Also tickets from Mumbai airport are also expected to become cheaper with varying rates.

With the judgment, the apex court has struck down the verdict of the Delhi high court which had rejected the NGO's petition challenging the ADF being charged by the private operators of the international airports in these cities.

According to the court, the fee could only be charged by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) under the law and not by private companies like the GMR Group.

Under the agreement between AAI and private groups, the  private players are supposed to build, operate and then transfer the airports at Delhi and Mumbai, back to the government after 30 years. In order to compensate the private companies for their expenses and investments in the development of the airports, they had been allotted land in the vicinity of the airport.

According to Prashant Kumar, lawyer for Consumer Online Foundation, in lieu of their expenses they were given land near airports but they still charged fees from passengers, which was the reason for moving the courts.