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Delhi HC reserves order on Swamy's plea that Air India disinvestment rigged

 
New Delhi, Jan 4 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Tuesday reserved the order on a plea filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking quashing of the Air India disinvestment process, where Tata Sons emerged as the winner of the bid.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh said that it will pronounce the order in the case on Thursday and directed the parties to file their notes by Wednesday. The bench said: "We will pass orders the day after."

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted the disinvestment was a policy decision, as the national carrier was running into losses.

During the hearing, Swamy contended that the bidding process was unconstitutional, corrupt, and rigged in favour of the Tatas. He also pointed out that the other bidder was a consortium led by the SpiceJet owner and there was an insolvency process ongoing in the Madras High Court, which passed orders against SpiceJet, therefore it was also not entitled to bid.

Swamy submitted that it leaves only one bidder and the bid cannot take place. he sought a direction to the Centre to quash the disinvestment process of Air India and also a probe into the role of respondents in the disinvestment process and submit a detailed report before the court.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Tata, submitted that the successful bidder is a 100 percent Indian company and the corruption allegations are without any basis, as there was nothing in the petition to establish corruption.

Mehta maintained there was nothing surreptitious about the deal and the decision was taken in 2017. He said: "The condition was whenever we invite the bidding till that day the losses will be incurred by the government and after that by the winner of the bid."

He added that proceedings against another airline, Air Asia, has nothing to do with the present disinvestment.

It was argued before the court that Respondent 6, in the plea, is Talace Private Ltd which acquired Air India. "It is wholly owned by Tata Sons and has nothing to do with Air Asia. Whatever AirAsia faced in the past is completely irrelevant here," said Mehta.

Salve added that from 2017, the government has been facing difficulties in selling the airline.

Swamy clarified that he is not against disinvestment and free market, but his grievance was against the procedure adopted to favour Tata. After hearing detailed arguments in the matter, the high court reserved its order.

In October, the government accepted the highest bid made by Tata Sons for 100 per cent equity shares of Air India and Air India Express along with a 50 percent stake in its ground-handling company named AISATS.

--IANS
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