The Meghalaya High Court on Friday expressed its disquiet and stopped short of ordering proceedings for perjury against official of airlines for citing "false" visibility issues as a reason for not operating their flights from Umroi airport and even suggesting that roads are more preferred way of travelling to Shillong than air travel.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice S.R. Sen took objection to Inter Globe Aviation Limited, who operates airline Indigo, stating low visibility and landing troubles as some of the reasons in its affidavit for not operating to and from Umroi.
It also ordered personal appearance of the official of Air Asia who filed the affidavit suggesting that since Shillong is just 100 kilometres from Guwahati and well-connected by properly maintained roads, roads are the preferred mode of travelling rather than air.
This is when the General Manager Air Traffic, R G Lama, told the court that there is no visibility issue and the statement made by Indigo was incorrect. The high court then called for an explanation from the official of Indigo Airline who had filed the affidavit as to why had he made a false statement before the court.
The court had taken note of the affidavit filed by Inter Globe Aviation wherein it had said that Indigo has AIR 72-600 aircraft whereas, Umroi Airport, Shillong has only two parking stands which are compatible only for ATR 42 aircraft and not for AIR 72-600 aircraft, therefore, Indigo aircraft cannot be parked in Umroi Airport, Shillong.
The second objection was that visibility at the airport is 5,000 metres or more, landing and taking-off could take place only at day time. The third objection taken by it was that even though Instrument Landing System has been published with higher minima of 5,000 meters and not less which is designed for visual circling and could not be used by airline for landing.
R.G. Lama, General Manager Air Traffic present in the Court, however, submitted that the objections raised by Indigo are "incorrect". He further submitted that Alliance ATR 72-100 on trial basis is landing and taking-off from Umroi Airport and that with the installation of ILS there is no issue of visibility.
At this, the court said, "Rahul Kumar who has filed this affidavit (on behalf of Indigo) is required to make his position clear as to why he has made a false statement before the court. He must file his affidavit within one week in case of default his personal appearance shall be indispensable".
Meanwhile, in an affidavit filed by one Deepak Mahendra on behalf of Air Asia, it was submitted that Air Asia has only A 320 aircraft and as on date, Umroi Airport is not compatible for A 320 aircraft. The bench took strong objection to submission in the affidavit that Air Asia is operating flights to Guwahati which is hardly 100 km from Shillong and is better connected via well-maintained roads and roads are, therefore, preferred over flights.
"It is quite disturbing to note that the deponent Shri Deepak Mahendra has exhibited ignorance in the affidavit is totally unaccepted i.e. in para 'g' he has stated that, "In any event is operating daily flights to Guwahati airport, which is 100 Kilometers (approx.) away from Shillong by road. In fact, the roads are very well connected and maintained and more preferred way of travelling to Shillong than the flight option. It is submitted that flight operations at the Airport are not at all commercially viable due to several reasons like payload restrictions where aircraft cannot fly to its full capacity, visual flight restrictions, low visibility, and safety issues."
"The deposition to the effect that Shillong is well connected by road which is more preferred way of travelling to Shillong than flight option, suggests that he has been playing in the hands of someone and has made such a deposition with the object of misleading the Court. Before we proceed against him by having recourse to contempt proceedings and for perjury, he shall appear before the Court in person to explain his position," said the order delivered by the Chief Justice.
Meanwhile, Jet Airways submitted that it has made certain survey/studies regarding operation of their flight and was granted a week's time to file affidavit.
On being informed that Alliance Air is operating ATR 72 from Kolkata to Umroi but the operations are marred by frequent flight cancellations, the bench directed Chief Executive Officer of Allied Services Limited (Alliance Air) to file an affidavit stating how many flights have been operated and how many flights have been cancelled day and date wise from January 1 till date.
The Meghalaya High Court has been taking cognizance of the expansion work at Umroi Airport in Ri Bhoi district for connecting it to the metros. In its Friday's order, the bench expressed satisfaction with the progress of work listed in an affidavit filed by the Commissioner of Transport, Government of Meghalaya. "We are satisfied with the approach, action and completion of construction by the State Government and equally satisfied with the steps and measures taken by the Airport Authority of India. "Now it is for the Civil Aviation department to take final measure for ensuring operation of flights of the concerned airliners.
Some airliners have projected difficulty in the same background learned ASG submits that a week' s time may be granted to Civil Aviation department for filing a detailed affidavit," it noted.
The matter is now listed for February 25.
It was on December 7 that the HC took suo moto case over non-commencement of operations from Umroi airport, and directed the officers of Civil Aviation and airliners to appear before Court explaining their stand. This order was appealed before the SC, which stayed the HC direction to the extent it directed personal appearance.