The Bombay High Court Friday directed the Union Civil Aviation Ministry to expeditiously finalise and implement policy pertaining to the naming and renaming of airports in the country. A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni heard the PIL filed by lawyer and city resident Filji Frederick seeking direction to the Union Civil Aviation Ministry to frame a policy for naming and renaming of airports and not to act on proposals by various state governments for naming and renaming airports in their jurisdictions.
The PIL also sought direction to restrain the Maharashtra government from making any proposal to name the upcoming international airport at Navi Mumbai till a policy is formed.The PIL said that on March 13, 2018, the Minister of State for Civil Aviation had informed Parliament that draft policy guidelines for naming of airports had been formulated. The petitioner further said that on June 10, he sought information under the RTI Act from the ministry, seeking information about the outcome of the 2016 decision regarding inter-ministerial consultations on a cabinet note prepared by the ministry.
The note, according to the petitioner, considered naming airports as per city names rather than names of personalities. The petitioner had also sought information on the status of the draft policy for naming and renaming of the airports.The petitioner said that the state government proposes the name and the same is ratified in its assembly, which is then sent to the Centre, which subsequently names the airport.
“It was widely decided that the airports will be named after the city as there is always this issue of people fighting over deciding on a name. It was considered that existing names will not be changed but new airports will be named as per their cities. It is not a written policy. It is only a procedure that is followed and there is a draft policy but nothing finalized as yet, which needs to happen on an urgent basis,” Fredrick said.
The PIL stated, “Although the intent behind naming airports after prominent personalities is to honor our history, over the years, with diversifying political ideologies, it has become common that different groups/political parties seek to honor different personalities, who may have a stronger standing and historical relevance within their group or community or region….while the conflicting groups and political groups promote their own suggestions, the disagreements lead to an unwarranted bickering between political parties and groups, thereby even causing nationally adored personality to be subjected to ridicule…”
Thereafter, the court asked Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh to respond to the plea and said, “We would like to know the present position of the draft policy. Over this small issue of naming airports, we took the state govt to task as there was a gathering violating Covid protocols with nearly 25,000 people, who were protesting over the naming of Navi Mumbai airport. Why should we allow this?”
“If there is a new policy still in the draft stage, get it done now. You have a new set of ministers now. Let this be the work of the new aviation ministry. It should be the first task for the new aviation minister,” the bench added. Seeking a response from the Civil Aviation Ministry, the court said it will hear the PIL next week.