15 May 2008, 0425 hrs IST,TNN
BANGALORE: In a landmark verdict passed by the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), the consortium company of Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) has been deemed as a ‘public authority’.
Dwelling into the financial structure and funding patterns of BIAL, the commission found that the private-public consortia has been ‘substantially financed’ by the government of India under the Comptroller and Auditor General (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Services) Act 1971, or CAG Act, thus making it (BIAL) more a public enterprise than a private one.
Hence, now under the Right to Information Act (RTI), citizens are entitled to any information sought on BIAL. “The project (BIA) serves public purpose and the public have a right to know about the proper management of the project,” the commission noted.
This judgment comes in pursuance of a Bangalorean, Benson Issac, seeking information on BIAL under RTI. As per Issac’s argument, the government’s equity (Centre & State) in BIAL is 26%, for which the government has substantially funded the enterprise bringing it under the purview of RTI.
In its observations, KIC, which had collected relevant information pertaining to the matter from BIAL and KSIIDC (Karnataka State Industrial Investment and Development Corporation), found that “even direct financing by the government promoters to this project (construction of the Bengaluru International Airport) is higher than the financing by the private promoters. If the indirect support, which has not been quantified, is also taken into account, the government support would be much higher.”
As per the KIC’s findings, the total investment made by the government into BIAL is Rs 434.94 crore, of which Rs 350 crore has been given as a loan under the provisions made by the State Support Agreement (SSA) that has been channelized through KSIIDC. Indirectly, the government has funded BIAL through exemptions from entry tax and property tax for five years; lease of land on concessional rent; waiver of stamp duty and registration charges; exemption from fee for change of land use; exemption from payment of road cess.
Also, the loan amount of Rs 350 crore will be repaid by BIAL to the government in 20 equal half yearly instalments, the first instalment of which will be only paid in the 11th financial year of the company (BIAL). Funding into BIAL from the consortium of private partners, Seimen-Zurich Airport-L&T, is to the tune of Rs 326.70 crore. A debt of Rs 1,185.09 crore has been raised through banks and financial institutions and Rs 68.50 crore raised though internal accruals.
The commission has directed BIAL to furnish all the details sought by Issac under RTI within the next one month.