The Centre on Tuesday opposed a plea moved by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in the Delhi High Court, seeking to quash the Air India disinvestment process and set aside the approvals given to it by authorities as the methodology adopted was "arbitrary, mala fide and corrupt".
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh heard the arguments put forward by Swamy, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and senior advocate Harish Salve, who appeared in the matter on behalf of AirAsia, and said it will pass an order on the petition on January 6.
It also asked the counsel for the Centre and the other respondents to file a short note during the day and granted liberty to Swamy to file a short note by Wednesday. The court further asked the petitioner to file legible copies of certain documents annexed with the petition. Swamy, a Rajya Sabha MP, has sought to set aside and revoke any action or decision or grant of any further approvals, permissions or permits by the authorities with respect to the Air India disinvestment process.
Swamy, through advocate Satya Sabarwal, has also sought a CBI probe into the role and the functioning of the authorities, and the submission of a detailed report before the court. In October last year, the Centre accepted the highest bid made by a Tata Sons company for 100 per cent equity shares of Air India and Air India Express, along with the government's 50 per cent stake in ground-handling company AISATS -- the first privatisation in 20 years.
The solicitor general contended that the petition was founded on three misconceptions and it does not need any consideration. Salve also contended that there was nothing in the petition and that the bids were complete, the share agreements signed and all this has been in public domain for quite some time.
On October 25 last year, the government signed the share purchase agreement with Tata Sons for the sale of national carrier Air India for Rs 18,000 crore. The Tatas would pay Rs 2,700 crore in cash and take over the airline's debt of Rs 13,500 crore. The Tatas beat the Rs 15,100 crore offer from a consortium led by Spicejet promoter Ajay Singh and the reserve price of Rs 12,906 crore set by the government for the sale of its 100 per cent stake in the loss-making carrier. As of August 31, 2021, Air India had a total debt of Rs 61,562 crore, of which 75 per cent or Rs 46,262 crore will be transferred to a special purpose vehicle, Air India Assets Holding Limited (AIAHL), before handing over the airline to the Tata group.
-With PTI Inputs