The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy’s plea seeking to quash the Air India disinvestment process, alleging corruption in the deal, reported Bar and Bench.
A Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh had reserved its verdict on Tuesday. The detailed order has not been made available yet.
In October, Tata Sons had won the bid to acquire the debt-ridden airline for Rs 18,000 crore. In his plea, Swamy had also sought an inquiry into the role of respondents in the disinvestment process and that a detailed report is submitted to the High Court.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Swamy had told the High Court that the bidding process of Air India was unconstitutional, mala fide, corrupt and rigged in favour of the Tata Sons.
The BJP leader said that the only other bidder for the airlines was a consortium led by the SpiceJet owner. But, he told the court, that insolvency proceedings are going on against SpiceJet in the Madras High Court and it was therefore not entitled to bid.
“This means there was only one bidder and the bid cannot take place,” Swamy argued. “After the bidding process, a story appeared in press that the second bidder said he was happy that he participated because if he had not, the bidding process could not have gone forward.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had argued that the disinvestment of the carrier was a policy decision taken by the Union government as Air India was incurring losses.
On Swamy’s claims that SpiceJet was the second bidder, the solicitor general had said that the airline was not a part of the consortium that submitted the bid and proceedings pending against it had no relevance in the case.
Winning the bid, Tata Sons had regained control of Air India nearly 70 years after its nationalisation. Air India was founded in 1932 as Tata Airlines by family scion and aviation enthusiast Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata. In 1946, the airline had become a public limited company.
As part of the deal between Tata and the Union government, the salt-to-software conglomerate would pay Rs 2,700 crore in cash and take over Rs 13,500 crore of the airline’s debt.
As of August 31, 2021, Air India had a debt of Rs 61,562 crore.