Govt says 200 flights cancelled in a fortnight in January
SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed state government, Indian Air Force and Airport Authority of India to delineate steps taken for ‘installation of the upgraded’ Instrument of Landing System (ILS) at Srinagar airport, a military-cum-civil airfield.
As the hearing in the suo-moto Public Interest Litigation started, Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed, who was heading a division bench along with Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey, was taken aback on being informed by the Additional Advocate General B A Dar that there is no ILS at the Srinagar airport.
“We’re in 2017? Which century? No ILS at Srinagar airport!” said the Chief Justice, who took oath as the state’s top judge, on April 1. The AAG, representing state’s chief secretary, also informed the court that non-availability of the ILS was prime reason behind frequent cancellation of flights to and fro Kashmir this winter.
“In 15 days of bad weather during the month of January this year, 200 flights were cancelled in absence of the ILS. Runway Visual Radar (RVR) is also not there,” he said. The ILS installed by AAI is CAT-I but without approach lights, the AAG said, adding, “This system can be upgraded to CAT-II for which approach lights are required to be installed and it will help landing of the flights if the visibility is 350 meters,” the AAG said.
In absence of RVR, the visibility is being reported manually but with its (RVR’s) help, the AAG said, accuracy can be achieved. The AAG also submitted that matter has been “agitated” by the state government with “defence people” as well as Airport Authority of India but “things have started to move only after intervention by the court.”
Additional Solicitor General of India Tahir Majid Shamsi, representing Indian Air Force, submitted that navigational aids like ILS, DVOR and DME stand provided to the Srinagar Airport but the approach lighting system, “which is an integral part of the ILS”, has not been installed by the AAI.
“This is leading to the ILS not being exploited fully,” he said by referring to a compliance report, filed by the Air Commodore of the IAF. For the installation of the approach of lighting system by AAI, he said, there was requirement of more land and present land of 300 meters with the Air Force Station Srinagar was inadequate for installing the approach lighting system which requires minimum of 900 meters. The additional land required for installation of the approach lighting system has to be provided by the state government to AAI, he said. Senior advocate Anil Bhan, representing AAI, said that the land has been “offered” by the state and “we are working out the stages and the measurements of what is required.”
Bhan said that AAI officials visited the site recently and have asked for contour maps, showing levels of grins for different measurements, to be provided for installation of approach lights to support for ILS. He said that further details are being worked out with the deputy commissioner Budgam. Bhan’s statement regarding “offer of land” was also endorsed by the state’s counsel.
After hearing all the parties, the division bench directed the counsel for AAI to provide details of latest technology which has been employed in airports across India. “He shall also indicate what needs to be done to update the ILS with latest technology,” the court said.
It also directed Air force, AAI and state government to file an affidavit within three weeks, indicating “steps taken towards implementing the upgraded ILS at Srinagar airport.” The court also appointed Advocate Syed Musaib as amicus curie and asked its registry to provide paper book and all the orders passed in the PIL to him.
The petition was initiated by Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey and on December 14, Chief Justice directed its registration as suo-moto PIL. In this PIL, the judge noticed that the AAI has, prima facie, failed to take notice of hardships and difficulties being regularly faced by the people, who travel to and fro Kashmir by air.
The judge also noticed that the authorities have, prima facie, failed to take appropriate remedial measures by upgrading the lighting system and installing the required gadgets at the Srinagar airport and, consequently has failed to discharge public duty.