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Purchase of planes under UPA: SC asks CBI to finish probe by June

Appearing for CBI and the government, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi informed the court that a final report by the PAC was expected to be laid down in Parliament in the upcoming session.

air india, air india praful patel, supreme court, air india purchases, civil aviation, Chief Justice J S Khehar, supreme court order, india news, indian express news A bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar said that the agency should submit its final investigation report in a trial court “preferably” by June. (File)

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the CBI to try and conclude by June its probe into the alleged scam pertaining to the purchase of 111 aircraft in 2005-06 during the UPA tenure when Praful Patel was Union Minister for Civil Aviation.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar said that the agency should submit its final investigation report in a trial court “preferably” by June and “if there is any challenge to the CBI report then it can be done in accordance with the law.” The court, however, declined to keep a PIL on this issue pending, observing that it did not want to give any projections when the CBI as well as a Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) were examining the acquisition of aircraft.

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“We find no justification to retain the matter. We don’t want to give any projection…the situation has changed…the government has changed and there are different people at the helm now…questions of alleged bias may not arise. We must have faith in our investigative agencies,” the bench told petitioner NGO’s lawyer Prashant Bhushan who pleaded for keeping the PIL alive in the court for its monitoring.

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The bench disposed of the petition by the NGO and said the probe will be taken to a logical end.

Appearing for CBI and the government, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi informed the court that a final report by the PAC was expected to be laid down in Parliament in the upcoming session. “Apart from a report by the PAC, CBI has also registered an FIR and has recorded statements of 25 witnesses. A final report in the form of a chargesheet or a closure report is likely to be filed by June end as soon as the investigation is over,” the AG said.

Rohatgi also argued that the PAC was supposed to give its report to Parliament and there were judgments to state that a court would not interfere and issue orders on matters being examined by parliamentary committees.

The PIL had alleged that the decision to purchase 111 aircraft for national airlines which cost about 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 “ruined the national carriers”.

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It alleged that the decisions of the then civil aviation minister cost the national exchequer tens of thousands of crores and that the “only beneficiaries of the above decisions were foreign aircraft manufacturers, private and foreign airlines”. The plea also referred to a CAG report which had stated that the decisions of the Civil Aviation Ministry did not withstand audit scrutiny.

First published on: 06-01-2017 at 01:03:59 am
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