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More than a year after the Indian Air Force claimed safety and other concerns regarding the Chandigarh international airport had virtually been given the go-by, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today ordered the demolition of 98 illegal structures in its vicinity.

As a petition filed in public interest on the airport’s safe and smooth take-off came up for resumed hearing, a report by the state of Punjab on constructions and other related issues was placed before a Division Bench of the High Court.

Taking a note of the submissions in the report, the Bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli directed the state of Punjab to initiate the process of demolishing 98 such structures. The Bench also made it clear that a related issue of 20 constructions carried out between 2008 and 2011, and 198 constructions before 2008 would be considered on the next date of hearing in accordance with the provisions of the Works of Defence Act.

Instrument landing system

Appearing before the Bench on behalf of the Air Force, Assistant Solicitor-General of India Chetan Mittal indicated that the process of installing the CAT-III instrument landing system was likely to be delayed beyond the initial deadline of December this year.

Mittal said there were some issues regarding working permissions for the installation of CAT-III facility and southern taxi track. The technical problems had been revised and sent to the Union Ministry of Defence on August 21. Taking a note of the submissions, the Bench directed the Union Defence Secretary to take a decision within two weeks.

Open Sky Policy

The amicus curiae or the friend of the court, senior advocate ML Sarin, brought to the notice of the Bench that Chandigarh was not among the Indian cities notified under India’s Open Sky Policy to enable operation of to-and-fro flights to ASEAN countries from here.

Sarin told the Bench that there was an agreement between the ASEAN countries and the Government of India regarding the Open Sky Policy and 18 airports across the country were included in it. The Chandigarh airport came up later and was not a part of it.

The Open Sky Policy essentially means that no bilateral agreement is required and there are no seat restrictions. The Bench was also told that the local MP had raised the issue before Parliament and Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh had sought inclusion of Chandigarh among the Indian cities notified under the policy. The Bench, after hearing the submissions, sought a status report on the issue.

The development is significant as the airport, as of now, is unable to operate direct flights to international destinations in ASEAN countries such as Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. As a result, the passengers from the region are compelled to travel to New Delhi before taking flights to such countries.

Road to airport

Referring to the issue of an underpass and shortcut to the airport from the Haryana side, Mittal suggested the state and Punjab could carry out a survey of the area and lay a 100-m road along the boundary. This would not only save Rs 100 crore to be spent on the underpass, but also address Haryana’s grievance regarding a shortcut to the airport. Mittal said the matter had been raised before a panel headed by the Punjab Governor and also before the state Chief Secretary.

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