Centre gets four weeks to reply on Air India losses

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday gave four weeks more to the Centre, the Civil Aviation Ministry and others to file replies to a PIL seeking investigation into alleged unnecessary purchase and leasing of a large number of aircraft, deliberate losing of market share of Air India due to loss of profit-making routes and for unearthing the role of senior officers of the Ministry and the top management running the business in it.

A Division Bench of the Court comprising Justices Madan B. Lokur and Mukta Gupta also asked the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the Central Vigilance Commission to file affidavits in reply to the petition.

The petitioner, NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation, through its counsel Prashant Bhushan submitted that the Ministry had driven Air India and Indian Airlines into losses to the tune of thousands of crores.

Now the Government had bailed-out these airlines at a huge cost to the exchequer. The entities that had benefited out of this affair were the foreign aircraft manufacturers and private Indian and foreign airlines, he submitted. He further submitted that a Parliamentary Committee had also recommended investigation of the allegations and fixing of individual responsibility for the losses to two airlines.

He urged the Court to direct the National Aviation Corporation of India Limited to cancel purchase orders of the aircraft for which payments had not yet been made and aircraft not been delivered.

The Ministry had gone 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 transparency, the petition alleged.

The purchase orders of the aircraft were given at a whopping cost of Rs. 67,000 crore. Loans were taken from U.S. and Indian banks to finance the same and today the airlines are deep in debt and suffering huge losses, the petition stated.