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Delhi HC finds no merit in Swamy's case against Air India disinvestment

Delhi HC finds no merit in Swamys case against Air India disinvestment

Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy's plea seeking to set aside the Air India disinvestment process, in which the Tatas emerged as the highest bidder at ₹18,000 crores.

"The writ petition is wholly devoid of merit and is accordingly dismissed," the court said.

On Thursday, rejecting Swamy's argument, a bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice Jyoti Singh said that the Centre's policy decision is not open to interference in judicial review in the absence of any illegality and arbitrariness being established by the petitioner.

The court said it saw no reason to entertain this Public Interest Litigation (PIL) while finding merit in the Centre's stand that each day, approximately Rs 20 crore is being invested by the government to run the national carrier and that the successful bidder needs to invest huge capital to infuse new life into the airline.

It also said the decision on disinvestment was taken after following transparent procedures through multi-layered decision-making.

The disinvestment process of Air India had started in June 2017. Talace Private Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons Pvt Ltd, emerged as the highest bidder last year. Challenging the process of privatisation, Swamy had argued that there is an ongoing investigation against AirAsia, where one of the shareholders is AirAsia Investment Ltd, Malaysia, and that they have direct and indirect control over Talace. He also contended that the bidding process was tailor-made to facilitate Talace in acquiring Air India by entertaining the bid on behalf of SpiceJet, against which insolvency proceedings are going on before Madras High Court.

In the verdict pronounced on Thursday, the division bench said neither Tata Sons nor Talace is facing any criminal proceedings in relation to a petition filed by Swamy in 2013 or in other matters. The bench said it is an admitted case of Swamy that Talace is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons.

"Both [Talace] and Tata Sons Ltd are Indian entities and, therefore, no question arises of violation of Foreign Direct Investment Policy. Moreover, AirAsia (India) Pvt Ltd has no interest in M/s Talace Pvt Ltd, who is the highest bidder," HC said.

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TAGS:Air India disinvestmentSubramanian SwamyDelhi highcourt
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