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US airline faces FIR for frisking Kalam
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 21
Following directions from the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) registered an FIR against US-based Continental Airlines for frisking former President APJ Abdul Kalam at Delhi airport on April 21. Also, the incident — a breach of protocol as BCAS Circular No. 6/2008 exempts specified Indian VVIPs and VIPs from pre-embarkation frisking — triggered a political storm in the Parliament on Tuesday with government ordering a probe into it.

According to the FIR, Kalam, who was travelling from IGI Airport to New York, was frisked by Continental Airlines’ staff even though CISF personnel had pointed out that he was exempted from such checks. A probe was ordered, which established that the staff had wrongfully carried out the frisking. Subsequently, a show cause notice was issued to the airlines on July 9, a reply of which is still awaited, officials said.

Today, the issue created a furore in the Rajya Sabha, with members across party lines demanding a stern action against the airlines. Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said a probe had been ordered into the incident and a show-cause notice served to the airlines. “The frisking was absolutely wrong, as a former President is exempt from such an exercise…Even as the matter does not pertain to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, I will personally go and apologise to Dr Kalam,” Patel said, denying reports that security at the airport had been outsourced.

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan termed the incident as a “very serious” matter: “I hope the government will take note of it and act accordingly.” Among other members who condemned the incident included Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley (BJP), Jayanthi Natarajan (Congress), Sitaram Yechury (CPM), Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) and Prakash Javadekar (BJP).

Jaitley said: “Protocols are reciprocal. While our dignitaries are getting frisked, we are sending vehicles to the tarmac to receive foreign dignitaries.”

Kalam, however, refused to comment. “What has happened is a fact and there is nothing to comment about it now,” he told a news channel. His office said the former President goes through standard security drill while travelling abroad. “He did not complain when he was frisked and took the incident in his stride. Everyone was being checked and so was he,” Kalam’s personal secretary H Sheridan said. “But, it was the first occasion that he was frisked while leaving India.” Meanwhile, agencies quoted Continental Airlines as saying that all carriers flying to the US must follow the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) procedures, as per which a passenger must undergo a final security check in the aerobridge just before boarding the aircraft.

Notably, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, too, was forced to undergo a security check at Moscow airport in 2008 while he was returning to India. Then, Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had called off a scheduled official visit to London in October last when he was told that he would be frisked at Heathrow airport.

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