NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court ordered the CBI on Thursday to complete probe into the alleged Rs 70,000 crore scam in purchase and leasing of aircraft by Air India during UPA-I government in 2005-06.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi informed a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud that CBI had registered an FIR in 2013 and has already examined 55 witnesses.
“CBI has requested UK for certain information and has so far examined 55 witnesses. Investigations are likely to be completed by June,” Rohatgi said.
An Empowered Group of Ministers under chairmanship of then finance minister P Chidambaram and comprising then law minister H R Bharadwaj and civil aviation minister Praful Patel was constituted on December 20, 2005. It held discussions with Boeing and GE on December 24, 2005.
A note signed by Chidambaram submitted for information and approval of the then Prime Minister for placing orders for 68 aircraft with Boeing with a caveat that Boeing would complete delivery of the planes by 2011 instead of 2012. The PMO on December 30, 2005 informed that the PM has seen note and directed that the ministry of civil aviation “may inform the CCEA about the finalised transaction”.
The bench headed by the CJI asked CBI to look into all allegations levelled by petitioner, Centre for Public Interest Litigation through advocate Prashant Bhushan, including alleged irregularity in purchase of biometric system for Air India at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore.
Bhushan said a Canadian superior court had already found that bribes were paid in bagging the contract for biometric systems by Air India. The petitioner had also questioned allocation of lucrative routes to private airliners at the cost of Air India.
When the AG said that looking into all the charges levelled by the NGO would drag the investigation, the bench firmly told him: “We are not going to allow you too much of time given the fact that the FIR was registered in 2013.” After the allegations about irregularities in the purchase and hiring of 111 aircraft by Air India surfaced, the Comptroller and Auditor General had given a stinging report questioning the procedure and modus operandi adopted by the civil aviation ministry. On tabling of the CAG report in Parliament, it was referred to the Public Accounts Committee.
The PAC had sought certain clarifications and the ministry had given its response on May 3, 2016.
Source: Economic Times