The Delhi High Court recently ordered a status quo on aircraft leased to grounded airline Go First by lessor SMBC Aviation Capital. This development comes in the wake of an application filed by SMBC, alleging that Go First violated a previous court order by handling the aircraft against explicit directions. The status quo pertains to handling and carrying out non-revenue activities on the aircraft.

Representing SMBC, Wadia Ghandy & Co sought the court’s intervention, arguing that Go First conducted test flights with the leased aircraft despite the court’s instructions. In response, Go First’s Resolution Professional, represented by senior advocate Ramju Srinivasan, contended that the airline was merely conducting maintenance work to check airworthiness and not operating the aircraft.

During the proceedings, the court sought further clarification on what constituted ‘handling’ in this context. While allowing the RP to file a response to SMBC’s application, the High Court acknowledged the merit of SMBC’s case for a status quo, and subsequently passed the order.

Sources within Go First have expressed concern that the court’s ruling may potentially hinder the airline’s revival process. However, they asserted that the company is likely to appeal the decision. Go First plans to restart operations using 15 aircraft and is hopeful that it can manage despite the setback. Nevertheless, there is apprehension that other lessors may seek similar orders, leading to a cautious “wait and watch” approach by the airline.

This recent order adds to the complexities of Go First’s ongoing legal battle. On July 26, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) refused to restrain Go First from using leased aircraft for its operations, citing their essential role in keeping the company afloat. However, this order applied specifically to seven lessors who had not approached the Delhi High Court.

In a previous instance on July 12, the Delhi High Court rejected an appeal by Go First’s Resolution Professional (RP) that challenged a court order allowing lessors to conduct regular inspections of 30 leased aircraft and their components. While the court upheld the decision to permit inspections, it granted Go First the right to continue maintaining the aircraft.