The CBI was on Friday pulled up by the Supreme Court when it asked for two years to complete the probe into allegations of irregularities in purchase or hiring of 111 aircraft for Air India for a whopping Rs70,000 crore when Praful Patel was the civil aviation minister in the UPA regime and gave the agency only six months to finish the investigation.
“It’s around one year since the last order of apex court on 5 January. This is sufficient time to complete the investigation. Can you give us any deadline how much time you need to complete the investigation. Investigation has to be completed in days and not years”, a bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit told Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha who appeared for the CBI.
The bench reminded the ASG that the earlier deadline was June but that was not complied with.
The ASG said that CBI has already registered an FIR in the case and is investigating all aspects but since there are accused, who are residing abroad, letter rogatory needs to be sent.
“Two years’ time should be given to complete the probe on all the aspects,” the ASG said.
“Serious irregularities” have been alleged in purchase or hiring of 111 aircrafts.
It had also asked the agency to look into the fresh allegations made by NGO CPIL that Patel made Air India to buy biometric system for a hefty sum of Rs1,000 crore.
The Centre had earlier told the court that most of the allegations referred to in the petition are a result of adverse comments made by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC).
It had said that some of the observations in the case were made by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, as the chairman of PAC, in February 2014 and a detailed response has been filed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on 19 January, 2015.
The NGO had earlier told the court that Canada’s superior court has convicted a person for paying bribe to the then minister for the purchase of biometric system for a whopping cost of Rs1,000 crore for the airline.
The NGO had earlier moved to the apex court against the government and Air India seeking a CBI/SIT probe into alleged irregularities, including purchase of aircraft, and giving up of profit-making routes allegedly to private airlines during the UPA dispensation.
The court had in September 2012 issued notice to the government and Air India on the plea of CPIL seeking a CBI/SIT probe into the alleged irregularities.
The plea had alleged that various decisions taken during the tenure of Patel were meant to benefit private airlines and had caused huge loss to Air India.
The NGO had referred to several of Patel’s decisions, including the “massive” purchase in 2005-06 of 111 aircraft for national airlines costing around Rs70,000 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.