Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why should aam admi pay for VIP lounge: SC

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday said it was unfair to levy Airport Development Fee (ADF) on every passenger flying out of Delhi but allow foreign dignitaries to use VIP lounges free of cost at major airports.

"Our airport facilities are internationally competitive. But Airports Authority of India (AAI) has been a little unreasonable to passengers. In many airports abroad they charge even the dignitaries for using the VIP lounges. In London, it is 400 pounds. Why don't we charge the visiting dignitaries for using our VIP lounges which are much better than many in foreign countries?" asked a bench of Justices D K Jain and Madan Lokur.

"Are we so weak to charge them for using VIP lounges? Instead of burdening the common man, it would be a good idea to levy fee at least on reciprocal basis on foreign dignitaries using these lounges in out airports. They can pay in Indian or foreign currency," it said while issuing notice on a petition by Consumer Online Foundation questioning collection of ADF by Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) on behalf of AAI.

In November last year, the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) had permitted DIAL to resume collection of ADF from December 1 for a period of 18 months, which is till May 2013, from each passenger - Rs 221 each from domestic traveler and Rs 1,413 per international traveler.

DIAL had started collecting ADF from passengers from March, 2009, but an order from the Delhi High Court had stalled the exercise in June, 2011.

"The ADF is Rs 1,300 for international passengers and Rs 200 for domestic passengers with an additional 10.3% service tax. We had initially been allowed to collect it for a period of 36 months starting March 2009 and have now received an extension of 18 months. This is the first phase of collection through which we hope to bridge our funding gap by Rs 1,230.27 crore. A cost of Rs 701 crore that would be incurred by DIAL from April, 2010, would be recovered in phase-II of the ADF collection from June, 2013, to February, 2014," DIAL had said.

Appearing for the NGO, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said it was for AAI to collect ADF and questioned how a private operator leased to provide certain facilities at the airport could step into the shoes of the statutory authority and collect ADF.

"The ADF was for future construction and development of Airports and not to bridge the gap in the funding for the private operator," he said. However, senior advocate L Nageshwar Rao, appearing for DIAL, said the ADF was for future development and the shortfall in the budget of future structures and not to recover the cost of infrastructure already put in place.

The court issued notice to AAI and DIAL and asked their counsel to be present in court after two weeks.

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