DELHI- On Thursday (August 3, 2023), the Delhi High Court ruled that the concept of scheduled maintenance does not encompass the operation of aircraft, and it prohibited the financially distressed airline Go First (G8) from discontinuing maintenance flights.
The court emphasized that the resolution professional (RP) appointed under insolvency regulations to oversee the airline’s affairs has not demonstrated any immediate urgency or significant impending danger to the aircraft that would necessitate their abrupt and unannounced operation.
Go First Cannot Fly Lessors’ Aircraft
Justice Tara Vitasta Ganju, who had previously issued an order on July 28 to uphold the current state of affairs concerning the petitioner lessors’ aircraft’s handling and non-revenue flights until August 3, has extended this interim directive until further notice.
The high court characterized the argument put forth by the RP as “misconceived” regarding the operation of two out of the ten aircraft by Go Airlines.
The court clarified that these flights were related to handling tasks and were part of the scheduled maintenance procedure for an aircraft.
Justice Ganju stated, “The respondent no.9/RP of Go Airlines has also not been able to demonstrate any urgency or significant impending threat to these aircraft that would require the respondent no.9 RP to unexpectedly and without prior notification mandate the operation of these aircraft.”
“In essence, the term ‘scheduled maintenance’ cannot be construed to include the operation of the aircraft, even if it is a non-commercial flight.
Consequently, at this point, respondent no.9/RP of Go Airlines should not be allowed to continue with these handling/maintenance flights,” Justice Ganju affirmed.
The interim order was passed on an application filed by SMBC Aviation Capital Limited, one of the lessors of aircraft, submitting that, disregarding the court’s earlier directions, the RP has flown 2 aircraft owned by the petitioners without the court’s permission.
The plea said in the July 5 order, the court had passed directions that once the process of deregistration of aircraft has begun, the planes cannot be flown.
The RP’s representative argued that a pressing need existed to prepare the aircraft for flight according to the Resumption Plan, which the DGCA approved on July 21.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had also mandated that the airline conduct handling or maintenance flights in a satisfactory manner.
In a provisional ruling issued on July 5, the judge granted the lessors the opportunity to inspect their aircraft at least twice each month and perform necessary maintenance.
The initial verdict from the judge was rendered in response to petitions submitted by various lessors who were seeking the DGCA’s approval for the de-registration of their aircraft. This was to facilitate the retrieval of their planes from the airline.
The decision issued on July 5 faced opposition from the RP and was brought before the division bench. This bench granted permission for the airline to conduct necessary maintenance on the leased aircraft while also allowing the lessors to inspect the planes periodically.
During the recent hearing on Thursday, the legal representative for the RP of the airline informed the high court that they have challenged the division bench’s order from July 12 before the Supreme Court.
In the interim order granted on July 5, the single judge directed the DGCA to authorize the lessors, along with their employees and agents, to access the airport premises where their aircraft were parked and conduct inspections.
Previously, the resolution professional appointed by the NCLT to manage Go First had conveyed to the high court that returning the aircraft to the lessors would effectively cripple the airline, which is responsible for the livelihoods of 7,000 employees.
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