HC reserves order on PIL into AI aircraft deal

The Delhi HC on Wednesday reserved its judgement on a PIL seeking a direction to the CVC to inquire into alleged purchase order of 111 aircrafts.

Updated: Nov 30, 2011, 18:08 PM IST

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday
reserved its judgement on a PIL seeking a direction to the
Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to inquire into alleged
purchase order of 111 aircraft costing a whopping Rs 67,000
crore to national carrier Air India.

"Judgement is reserved," a bench of Acting Chief Justice A
K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said after hearing
arguments on the PIL filed in 2010 seeking investigation into
the aircraft purchase deal.

"More than prima facie materials are available for
ordering criminal investigation into the deal which caused a
huge loss to the exchequer," Prashant Bhushan, appearing for
NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), said.

Referring to the report of Comptroller and Auditor General
(CAG) on the issue, he said the deal was a "recipe for
disaster" as on one hand the aircraft were sought to be
purchased and simultaneously, the national carrier proposed to
get aircraft on lease basis.

This became "more glaring" in the backdrop that the most
of the profit-making routes were given to private companies
without getting anything in return, he said.

Bhushan also referred to a report of Parliamentary
Committee saying it had raised concerns on the issue.
Opposing the plea, Additional Solicitor General AS
Chandhiok said the CAG report is under consideration before
the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which would submit its
report to Parliament "which is supreme".

"Our specific query is whether the PAC can recommend the
investigation or not?" the bench asked.

The ASG replied that PAC can note down its findings.

Nearly Rs 10,000 crore of tax payers` money as subsidy is
given to the national carrier almost every year and yet, a
commercially "inviable" decision was taken by it, Bhushan
alleged.

Citing the parliamentary committee report, he said,
"Government remained a mute spectator when this deal was
entered into and simultaneously, 70 per cent lucrative routes
were given to private companies."

No proper negotiations were made before the purchase of
Boeing and airbus, he alleged.

Earlier, the court had issued notices to the CVC and the
CAG, which has now filed its report, he said, adding that the
CVC should be asked to file its response.

After hearing the matter, the court reserved its judgement
in the case.

Earlier, the High Court had sought responses from the
Centre, Air India, CVC, CBI and CAG on the PIL.

The CPIL had sought a CVC inquiry into aircraft purchase
deals of Air India and the role played by the Civil Aviation
Ministry.

"The petitioner (CPIL) requests this court to direct the
CVC to conduct a thorough inquiry into aircraft acquisition
deals of Air India and its loss of market-share by giving up
profitable routes and timings, and the role played by the
Civil Aviation Ministry. If the CVC finds a prima facie case,
it can then get the matter investigated through the CBI as per
law," the application had said.

The NGO, in its fresh application, cited the CAG report
while alleging that the Civil Aviation Ministry acted in
"haste and in mala fide" manner.

PTI