The Delhi High Court on Friday ordered the aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), to process deregistration requests for Go First’s leased aircraft within five days. This severely impacts Go First’s operations, grounding a significant portion of the airline’s fleet.

Justice Tara Vitasta Ganju dismissed a plea from the airline’s Resolution Professional to delay the enforcement of the order, leaving Go First at risk of losing all 54 of its leased aircraft. The court’s ruling comes after a legal battle initiated by aircraft lessors, including Pembroke Aviation, Accipiter Investments Aircraft 2, EOS Aviation, and SMBC Aviation. These lessors petitioned the court seeking the return of planes leased to the financially troubled airline.

This verdict effectively cancels previous communications from the DGCA, dating back to May 2023. The DGCA had earlier informed the lessors that their applications for deregistering aircraft were on hold due to Go First’s moratorium protection.

While the legal battle unfolded, two bids emerged for Go First — a consortium led by SpiceJet chief Ajay Singh and Nishant Pitti’s Busy Bee Airways, and another from Sharjah-based Sky One. The airline’s lenders are yet to make a final decision on these bids.

Responding to the court order, Nishant Pitti, co-founder of Busy Bee Airways and a Go First bidder, stated, “We have acknowledged the judgment issued by the Delhi High Court on April 26, 2024. We will review the details of the order once we receive the official document. Following this review, we will evaluate our position and consider any necessary adjustments to our proposed offer for GoAir. Our commitment remains to proceed in a manner that respects the legal process and aligns with our strategic objectives.”

Jaideep Mirchandani, Chairman of Sky One, another bidder for Go First, said, “We are waiting to get the entire copy of the court judgment. Based on what media reports are suggesting, we respect the court’s judgment. As far as our bid for Go First is concerned, the de-registration does not alter our plans for the Indian aviation industry. If our bid goes through, Sky One can bring in its own assets to run and revive the airline as we are experienced lessors.”

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs had clarified, through an affidavit submitted by the DGCA in the Delhi High Court, that a notification issued on October 3 exempting leased aircraft and engines from moratorium under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) will have “retrospective effect.” This clarification paves the way for deregistration of Go First’s aircraft, potentially posing a significant hurdle to the airline’s revival efforts.