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Frisking of Kalam unpardonable: Praful

Sujay Mehdudia

Preliminary inquiry ordered; show-cause issued to Continental Airlines

NEW DELHI: The frisking of the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here is an “unpardonable act,” Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel told the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Responding to the concern expressed by members during zero hour and their demand for suspension of the operations of the airline, Mr. Patel said a preliminary inquiry had been ordered and notice issued to Continental Airlines asking it to show cause why action should not be taken against it for wilful violation.

Mr. Kalam was frisked by the airline staff at the embarkation point some time ago when he was leaving for the U.S.

Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan expressed anguish over the incident and the “humiliation” meted out to the Bharat Ratna, whom the members described as the tallest figure and national hero.

Mr. Patel said this act of frisking the former President was beyond the scope of laws of the country. “We would not only take action against the airline but also speak to the Minister for External Affairs. I will personally call on Dr. Kalam and express my regrets,” he assured the House.

“Action in keeping with global practice”

Responding to Left members’ demand that the operation of Continental Airlines be suspended immediately, he said any action would be in consonance with the international practice and not in isolation. “I can assure the House, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security will take the most stringent action,” Mr. Patel said.

Demanding a probe, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) wondered whether the frisking had anything to do with the name Abdul Kalam. If that was so, it was much more serious.

“Outrageous”

Terming the incident “outrageous,” Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said it was an issue which put the whole nation to shame. Mr. Jaitley said whenever a foreign dignitary visited the country, the government sent a vehicle to the tarmac and exempted him from security rules. But Indian dignitaries and former Ministers were regularly frisked. Janeshwar Mishra (SP), Jayanti Natarajan (Congress), D. Siva (DMK) and D. Raja (CPI) spoke.

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