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Plea seeking probe into Airbus deal disposed of

March 03, 2003 18:20 IST

Satisfied that the CBI was making all efforts to probe the mid-1980s contract to buy 31 Airbus-A320 planes for the Indian Airlines, the Delhi High Court on Monday disposed of a petition seeking investigation into the deal worth Rs 2,400 crore (Rs 24 billion).

A division bench comprising Justices Usha Mehra and Pradeep Nandrajog disposed of the petition in view of efforts being made by the CBI saying no further directions were required in the regard and the Special Trial Court was seized of the matter.

The judges, however, hoped that the CBI would do its work expeditiously.

The Court noted that Letter Rogatory seeking assistance in investigation had already been sent by the CBI through the external affairs ministry to the United Kingdom and France and that the bureau was making efforts to get LRs serviced to firms in British Virgin Island and Bermuda.

The court had earlier asked the central government to file a status report on the investigations in the deal, when it was informed that India's Ambassador to France had taken up the issue of cooperation of that government in the CBI probe.

Submitting a preliminary report in this regard, Additional Solicitor General K K Sud said the French government had, however, expressed its inability to proceed with the request as it could not interfere with the affairs of a private company.

Sud also quoted a law of that land which prohibited the transfer of business information without proper authorisation. India and France did not also have a specific treaty in this regard.

The court was dealing with a PIL, filed by advocate B L Wadehra, which alleged that the Airbus 320 deal was one of the five biggest scandals of the Rajiv Gandhi era. Nothing concrete had emerged from the CBI investigation, which began on March 23, 1990, the petitioner contended.

Among those named in the FIR are former Civil Aviation Secretary S S Sidhu, former Indian Airlines managing director K Chadha, former planning director and economic adviser to Indian Airlines Managing Director R Prasad and Deputy Managing Director B K Bhasin.

Indian Airlines had paid a sum of $900,000 to Boeing after signing a letter of intent to acquire 12 Boeing-757 aircraft. This was done after June 13, 1984 meeting of the Indian Airlines board that considered a report of the subcommittee headed by Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh.

However, four months later, Airbus Industries--a consortium of European plane manufacturers based at Toulouse in France--made a suo motu offer. A techno-economic analysis of A-320 aircraft offer was carried out.

Eventually, a decision was taken to purchase 19 A-320 aircraft for delivery in 1989-90 with an option for additional 12 aircraft for delivery in 1990-91.

UNI

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