SC notice to Centre over plea to probe AI aircraft purchase
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The Supreme Court on Friday sought replies from the Centre, Air India, CVC and others on a petition seeking CBI probe into alleged irregularities in the procurement of 111 advanced aircraft by Air India for R67,000 crore between 2004 and 2008 when Praful Patel was the civil aviation minister.
A bench headed by Justice H L Dattu issued notices to the civil aviation ministry, Air India, the CBI and CVC on a PIL filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) stating that 111 aircraft were purchased at R67,000 crore to benefit foreign aircraft manufacturers and bilateral rights were given to foreign airlines without any reciprocal benefit to the carrier, which was also asked to give up its profitable routes.
Seeking an inquiry into the aircraft purchase, the PIL filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan also questioned the ministry's role in its market share loss due to giving up of profitable routes. The petition has drawn attention to how the ministry through its "deliberate and mala fide decisions and actions" drove Air India and Indian Airlines into heavy losses to the tune of thousands of crores.
The petition alleges that the government went in for a huge fleet expansion programme in which purchase orders for 111 aircraft were given. "This unnecessary expansion was made without any proper study and without any transparency. The purchase orders of the aircraft were given costing a whopping R67,000 crore," the petition states.
The ministry under the then minister Patel took four decisions approximately around the same time - massive purchase of 111 aircrafts for national airlines costing about R70,000 crore, taking on a large number of aircraft on lease, making the national carriers give-up profit making routes and profit making timings in favour of international and national private airlines and merger of the two national carriers (Air India and Indian Airlines).
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