M A I N   N E W S

Rudy in soup as EC seeks information on air passes
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 25
Union Civil Aviation Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy could find himself in hot waters once again with the Election Commission today initiating a probe about the reported issuance of free air passes to “high-profile political functionaries to travel to London by Air India” during its direct inaugural flight from Ahmedabad to London on March 28.

EC sources said that a few politicians from Gujarat as well as senior officials and journalists have been given free passes for the inaugural flight.

Sources pointed out that the names of “high profile politicians” for the inaugural flight would not have been cleared without the knowledge of the Union Civil Aviation Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

This could land Mr Rudy in trouble for the second time within a span of two months. He was in the eye of a storm recently with his office reportedly asking the Airport Authority of India to pay the bills of the minister and his family’s visit to Goa for the New Year bash.

As the issue caused a major political storm, the minister, later, coughed up the bill running into a few lakhs of rupees.

The Commission, which initiated the action, on the basis of “an insider complaint” has asked the Civil Aviation Ministry to provide the list of “high-profile political functionaries” for the visit to London at the public sector’s expense.

In a communication, the Election Commission asked the Ministry to send its explanation by 5 p.m. tomorrow evening as it considered that issuance of free passes to “high profile politicians” violation of the model of code of conduct which took effect from February 29.

Taking a serious view of it, the Commission has asked for full details of the total number of passes distributed so far, with the names and ranks of the dignitaries to whom these were issued from February 29 till date.

Civil Aviation Ministry sources said Air India had sent its report where it had claimed that no passes had been issued to any politician for the inaugural flight to London. Following the query by the EC, the national carrier has sought permission to take 23 journalists from Ahmedabad and 12 from Delhi on the inaugural flight.

Meanwhile, the Commission has issued a letter to the Civil Aviation Ministry for checking any liquid cash present in the baggage of passengers travelling by air.

The letter sent to the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) asked the security personnel to question any passenger carrying large sum of liquid cash, EC sources said.

The BCAS has asked the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), in-charge of providing security at all airports in the country, to check and question any passenger carrying huge amount of money.

The CISF has also been directed to report any such matter to higher authorities where a passenger was carrying money over Rs 10 lakh. The move comes in the wake of reports that heavy transactions take place during the elections, sources said.

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