Justice Pratibha recuses herself from Go First lessors’ case against DGCA

Justice Partiba M Singh of the Delhi High Court on Thursday recused herself from hearing a petition from Go First aircraft lessors against the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which is seeking possession of their aircraft.

The DGCA told the Delhi High Court on Wednesday that it had not rejected the Go First lessor’s application to de-register the aircraft but kept the (de-registration) procedures pending due to the moratorium.

This was based on a petition by Pembroke Aircraft Leasing 11 Limited, one of Go First’s lessors, which moved court on Monday seeking to de-register its aircraft leased to Go First.

In addition to Pembroke, other lessors who have moved court for similar reasons are Accipiter Investments Aircraft 2 Limited, EOS Aviation 12 (Ireland) Limited and SMBC Aviation Capital Limited.

Singh said he must appear on Friday before another judge, as per the chief justice’s orders.

The lessors’ attorney said they were seeking compensation against the DGCA and not Go First, so the airline was not a party to the proceedings.

The disputed aircraft currently owns Go First as NCLAT issued an order on Monday upholding the National Corporations Law Tribunal (NCLT), a May 10 Delhi order which recognized the airline’s insolvency claim. Once the insolvency plea was accepted, a moratorium was instituted which meant lessors could not repossess their aircraft.

A moratorium is the suspension of all or some of the legal remedies against the debtor (in this case Go First).

A lawyer for one of the lessors argued, “We have no problem with the NCLAT order. Foreign relief against the DGCA.”

Although Justice Singh did not provide any explanation as to why she was stepping down, it is worth noting that her husband, Senior Lawyer Maninder Singh was representing Go First in NCLAT.

The DGCA had told the court on Wednesday that it would take five days to process the deregistration request and before it could, the suspension was in effect after the NCLT order.

Other lessors have also told NCLAT in previous hearings that they had sought to deregister the Go First aircraft before accepting the insolvency claim. In response, Go First argued that the lessors hastily filed for deregistration of the aircraft as soon as they learned the airline was filing for bankruptcy.

Pembroke reiterated the arguments of the other lessors and told the Delhi High Court that the airline had no right to operate the aircraft once the lease had been cancelled. Meanwhile, Go First’s Interim Resolution Specialist (IRP) said they needed the aircraft to resume operations.

The court is likely to hear the case on May 26 (Friday) in another court.