The Supreme Court today stayed the Karnataka High Court judgement that quashed the decision of Bangalore International Airport Ltd. (BIAL), operator of the Bengaluru International Airport at Bangalore, to award the duty-free shops contract to Nuance Group AG of Switzerland and Shoppers Stop.
On December 19 2008, on a plea by Flemingo Duty Free Shops Pvt. Ltd., the Karnataka High Court had set aside the award and directed BIAL to reissue fresh tender documents within 45 days.
Dubai-based travel retail business company, Flemingo, which operates duty-free shops at airports and sea ports, had alleged that it was wrongly excluded from the tender for setting up duty-free shops at the new airport.
A bench headed by Justice K G Balakrishnan asked the parties to maintain status quo till February 16, the notified date of hearing.
Earlier, the apex court stayed the Bombay High Court judgement that had allowed a similar petition of Flemingo Duty Free Shops Pvt. Ltd. and quashed a similar decision of Mumbai International Airport Ltd. (MIAL), operator of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, to award the duty-free shops contract to DFS India.
Both High Courts had held that MIAL and BIAL were a ‘state’ within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution.
Both the Nuance Group and DFS Ventures, Singapore had challenged the respective High Courts’ rulings.
This case of significance to both airport’s private operators. If the Supreme Court upholds the lower courts’ decisions, it will require operators to follow public tendering processes, which airport operators feel will hamper their ability to make procurement decisions.