The Supreme Court today asked an NGO, which has alleged “serious irregularities” in purchase or hiring of 111 aircraft for Air India in 2005-06, to give short submissions on these aspects which, it has claimed, were not probed by the CBI. A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said this after advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, claimed that several issues were raised in the petition but the CBI has not probed those aspects. Bhushan, representing Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), also alleged that the aspect of payment of bribes has not been investigated. Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha, appearing for the CBI, told the bench that the agency has registered four separate FIRs in the matter and the probe was going on.
The bench, which fixed the matter for hearing next week, asked Bhushan to give a short submission on this aspect saying “let us have a clear picture”. The NGO, in its plea, has alleged that irregularities in purchase or hiring of 111 aircraft for Air India had cost around Rs 70,000 crore. Bhushan had earlier alleged in the apex court that Canada’s superior court had convicted a person for paying bribe for purchase of biometric system for Rs 1,000 crore for the airline.
The Centre had said that most of the allegations referred to in the plea were the result of adverse comments made by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) and the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC). The NGO had earlier moved the top court against the government and Air India, seeking a CBI/SIT probe into alleged irregularities, including purchase of aircraft, and giving up of profit-making routes allegedly to private airlines during the UPA dispensation.
The court had in September 2012 issued notice to the government and Air India on the plea of CPIL seeking a CBI/SIT probe into the alleged irregularities. The NGO had referred to several government decisions, including the “massive” purchase of 111 aircraft for national airlines costing around Rs 70,000 crore, taking a large number of planes on lease, giving up profit-making routes and timings in favour of private airlines and the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines.
It had moved the apex court challenging Delhi High Court order rejecting its plea into the alleged irregularities. In its plea before the apex court, the NGO had alleged that the actions and decisions of the then government had “ruined our national carriers, cost the national exchequer tens of thousands of crores and the only beneficiary of the above decisions were foreign aircraft manufacturers, private and foreign airlines”.