New Delhi, July 20 - The Airport Development Fees (ADF) collected from passengers was "little unreasonable", the Supreme Court said today, and suggested that VIPs be charged like in abroad for use of special lounges instead of burdening common travellers.
"You are little unreasonable to passengers. In many airports (abroad) such a huge amount of fee is charged for VIP rooms. In London they charge 400 pounds per passenger for a small room in VIP lounge, why can't you reciprocate here,"a bench comprising justices D K Jain and Madan B Lokur said.
"Are we so weak. Instead of burdening our passengers, can we also not charge such fees, particularly in the peak seasons in vacations like in June when VIP travellers are visiting from foreign.
If we have to pay in pounds in London, why can't they pay in rupees here. Our airports are execellent compared to many of them," it said.
The bench made the remarks during the hearing of the petition by an NGO, Consumer Online Foundation, challenging the levying of ADF of Rs 200 and
Rs 1,300 per embarking domestic and international passengers at the New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport for 18 months from December 1, 2011 to May 2013.
The NGO had come in appeal against the order of the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Appellate Tribunal which had refused its plea against the levy and collection of ADF by Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) at the IGI which was fixed by Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA).
The Bench said there was an "innocuous doubt" that the development fee has been charged for future and perhaps "DIAL has stepped into the shoes of Airport Authority of India (AAI)."
The court also said "the larger issue remains as to how do you justify the levy (ADF)" and during the hearing it also came out with the suggestion that "why not it take suo motu note about the payment of levy".
"We have to be enlightened because everyone of us are passengers," the bench said and took note of the submission that due to the esclation in project cost, Rs 200 and Rs 1,300 was being levied on each domestic and international passenger to bridge the gap of Rs 1,230 crore.
After hearing the submissions from senior advocates Rajeev Dhavan and L Nageshwar Rao, who were appearing for the NGO and AERA respectively, the bench noted that the development fee levied and collected by DIAL will be credited with the AAI and will be kept in a separate account for future development and thus the gap would be bridged for future projection.
The court said the issues raised could be adjudicated by the appellate tribunal and it was in favour of remanding the matter back to it. The tribunal had refused to condone the delay in taking the case before it.
Meanwhile, the bench issued notices to the Centre and AAI and sought response from them on the NGO's petition questioning the authority of DIAL in levying and collecting the ADF at the IGI airport.
The NGO has also questioned the authority of AERA in determining the ADF on the application of DIAL, which is a private entity. PTI