New Delhi, November 30: 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.