CBI seeks information on bilateral flying rights from Civil Aviation Ministry, DGCAhttps://indianexpress.com/article/business/aviation/cbi-seeks-information-on-bilateral-flying-rights-from-civil-aviation-ministry-dgca-6017031/

CBI seeks information on bilateral flying rights from Civil Aviation Ministry, DGCA

The information sought is in connection with the investigation over alleged irregularities in signing of bilateral flying rights by the Indian government to West Asian countries in 2008-09.

praful Patel, DGCA, CBi, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, bilateral flying rights, Indian Express
Last month, the CBI had questioned former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel in connection with alleged corruption in giving profitable routes of Air India to airlines based in West Asia. (File Photo)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has approached the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) seeking information about the set guidelines and procedures followed while negotiating for bilateral flying rights with other countries, senior government officials told The Indian Express.

The information sought is in connection with the investigation over alleged irregularities in signing of bilateral flying rights by the Indian government to West Asian countries in 2008-09.

One Civil Aviation Ministry official said that prior to 2012, there were no set guidelines and rules for the Ministry about negotiations of air service agreements (ASAs) with other countries. In 2012, the procedures were established, the official said, adding that they have been adhered to while preparing ASAs.

The official further indicated that while India did not have set procedures prior to 2012 for negotiating capacity entitlements for two countries, the same may be referred to by the investigation agency in order to establish lapses in procedures.

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Last month, the CBI had questioned former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel in connection with alleged corruption in giving profitable routes of Air India to airlines based in West Asia.

It was also alleged that acts of commission were made on extraneous considerations causing immense losses to Air India and pecuniary benefit to private domestic and foreign airlines, which were given unrestricted entry into India and major routes were given to them without reciprocal benefits to Air India.

These developments date back to 2008-09, during Patel’s tenure as the Civil Aviation Minister. The CBI has also arrested corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar on the basis of allegations that he received Rs 272 crore in bribes while acting as a middleman to illegaly secure favourable flying rights.

In addition to seeking information from Civil Aviation Ministry, the investigation agency has also sought records of communications from DGCA, which has set the requirements for grant of operating authorisation to foreign airlines under bilateral ASAs. The sought records, another official said, pertained to foreign airlines meeting the requirements prescribed by the DGCA to be able to fly to Indian airports.

The bilateral flying rights have their origin in the Chicago Convention 1944, and India has signed ASAs with 109 countries covering aspects relating to the number of flights, seats, landing points and code-share agreements. Utilisation of bilateral rights at any point of time differs from country to country and is subject to periodic renegotiation. India’s new civil aviation policy, which was announced in 2016, called for liberalising the regime of bilateral rights leading to greater ease of doing business. As per the policy, whenever designated carriers of India have utilised 80 per cent of their capacity entitlements and seek additional capacity entitlements, the capacity entitlements are renegotiated.

No set guidelines and rules before 2012

* One Civil Aviation Ministry official said that prior to 2012, there were no set guidelines and rules for the Ministry about negotiations of air service agreements (ASAs) with other countries

* In 2012, the procedures were established, the official said, adding that they have been adhered to while preparing ASAs
* Last month, the CBI had questioned former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel in connection with alleged corruption in giving profitable routes of Air India to airlines based in West Asia

* The bilateral flying rights have their origin in the Chicago Convention 1944, and India has signed ASAs with 109 countries