Air India defies CIC order, shields Patel

Airline was directed by the former union civil aviation minister to switch crafts to offer higher class of air travel to his daughter and her family


Sweta Ranjan | January 24, 2012

A reply to an RTI query shows that the government’s loss-making airline Air India is trying to shield former civil aviation minister Praful Patel in a case of  misuse of office privileges.

Delhi-based RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had claimed that the airline, in 2010, had switched the aircraft on its Bangalore-Male (Maldives)-Bangalore route to a A320 plane from a A319 plane to indulge Patel’s daughter and her family.

The A319 flight doesn’t have a business class while the A320 does. Agrawal had claimed that the order to switch the flights had come from the civil aviation ministry to accommodate the minister’s daughter in a higher class.

Agrawal, in his RTI application, had asked the airline for the details of passengers who flew business class on board IC-965 and IC-966 on April 25 and April 28, 2010 respectively on the route. Central information commissioner Sushma Singh had directed the airline to reveal the details but the airline dug out a reason to subvert the apex transparency body. Invoking commercial interests behind not disclosing information on “valued passengers”, the airline wrote a letter to Singh declining the information. It also imparted a few lessons on business ethics stressing that such information is not only available with it in a “fiduciary relationship” but also that the disclosure will amount to an “invasion of privacy”.

Agrawal had also sought disclosure of the name(s) of the person(s) who had directed the craft-switch over phone for the flights on the mentioned dates. While the CIC had directed the airline to provide the names, the airline avoided mention of this important directive in its letter. Interestingly, the airline claimed during a hearing with the CIC that there were no file-notings or correspondence on the change of aircrafts.

The airline is not forthcoming about even the type of aircraft that flew as substitute. All through the letter, the A320 has been referred to as the “the type of aircraft substitute for A319”.

Agrawal says, “It is unfair that Air India is attempting to hide serious irregularities on the part of the former union minister by openly defying the CIC’s directions. Strict action should be taken against the concerned ones (sic) at Air India.”

This has happened at a time when the national carrier has become a loss-making ‘white elephant’, thanks to its political masters and its officers dancing to their tune, he notes. He had filed the query after the media reported the alleged muscle-flexing by Patel.

Agrawal also that the Maharajah’s management, instead of complying with the CIC-verdict, has asked for a review, a move not permissible under the RTI act.



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