RAWALPINDI, June 19: The Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi Bench, while deciding a public interest petition on Wednesday, declared the entry fee at Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) Islamabad illegal.
In 2007, Rs20 had been introduced as entry fee for every person by the civil aviation authority (CAA) contractor Khawar&Co.
In August 2011, Barrister Sajjad Ahmad Satti, through public interest litigation, had challenged the airport’s entry fee levied on people arriving at the airport to see off their relatives and friends.
Legal counsel for the petitioner, Raja Saimul Haq Satti advocate, contended before the court that the tender for collection of airport entry fee had been awarded to a non-registered Gujrat-based firm (Khawar&Co).
The tender was awarded for a period of six months, but the firm had continued levying the fee since 2007 and no audit of the firm had ever been done.
Initially, the company had been awarded a contract with the condition that it would deposit Rs85,000 with the CAA, but later the amount had been reduced to Rs76,000.
The petitioner Sajjad Satti had cited the ministry of defense, chairman CAA, Director General BBIA, Manager Logistics Department CAA, Khawar&Co., chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and DG Federal Investigation Authority as respondents in the case.
The counsel contended before the court that the CAA had been committing enormous financial irregularities. It had created several problems for the public at large and at the same time, it was causing financial loss to the public exchequer.
He said according to the CAA Ordinance 1982, the authority was meant to ensure safe and efficient civil aviation operations in the country.
More so, he said the CAA was bound to improve terminal facilities and remove bottlenecks to ensure Pakistani airports were passenger friendly.
A well maintained airport could help promote tourism in Pakistan as people would be encouraged to travel.
The counsel contended that the authority had illegally imposed and collected Rs20 to Rs40 per head on account of airport entry fee, despite the fact that the Competition Commission of Pakistan had taken notice of the issue and had written to the CAA to probe into the matter.
He said the CAA was not entitled to receive the fee without providing any additional services to people accompanying the travelers, and asked the court to declare the entry fee illegal.
On the other hand, the CAA maintained in court that the authority had imposed an entry fee to decrease the number of visitors at the airport as there was not enough space to cater for them all. The CAA counsel said the authority had, through newspaper advertisements, requested passengers not to bring too many visitors, but all in vain.
He said the entry fee had been effective in decreasing the number of people visiting the airport, adding that overcrowding was posing security threats.
The LHC bench had initially reserved judgment in this matter on June 11, 2013, and on Wednesday, stated that the imposition of entry fee was illegal and hazardous to security, control and good management.
The LHC judge also directed the CAA and other respondents to take measures to reduce and limit the number of visitors accompanying travelers in the parking lot and the lounge.
He maintained that the entry fee allowed all kinds of people to enter the BBIA and there was no check on the safety of passengers.