New Delhi: Airport operators who have developed airports must now receive clearance from the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority before levying an Airport Development Fee (ADF), according to a ruling by the country's apex court. The order, which reverses an earlier ruling on the same matter by the Delhi High Court, will bar Mumbai International Airport Ltd from levying any such charges, but allow Delhi International Airport Ltd operators to continue doing so.
The crux of the matter, according to the apex court, is that the authority to allow private consortiums that run Delhi and Mumbai airports to collect the fee rests with the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA).
The Supreme Court bench of justices RV Raveendran and AK Patnaik said while AERA had permitted Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) to continue to levy the ADF through a public notice in April 2010, no such notice was issued by it in respect of Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL).
"Hence MIAL could not continue to levy and collect development fee at major airport at Mumbai'' and "cannot do so in future unless the regulatory authority passes an appropriate order....", the bench said.
In passing judgement it set aside an earlier order of the Delhi High Court, which allowed airport developers to charge Airport Development Fee at the Mumbai Airport.
The court was hearing a petition by some NGOs, including Consumer Online Foundation, who contend that the fee is illegal. The apex court observed that since the passengers from whom the ADF was collected so far "cannot now be identified nor can they be traced for making the refund", and also that there was no refund claims, the money should be used for development of airports only.