Reports of transportation of unauthorised arms,contraband and large sums of money to the five poll-bound states on chartered aircraft,helicopters and through passengers of commercial airlines have prompted Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) to modify standard operating procedures (SOPs) and issue fresh guidelines to ensure a level playing field during the election process.
Barring exempted VVIPs,all passengers and baggage boarding any aircraft or helicopter,commercial or chartered,will pass through the pre-embarkation security checks area of operational airports of states going to polls,says a circular issued by R N Dhoke,Additional Commissioner,BCAS,on July 3.
Chartered aircraft or helicopters,however,will not require prior permission from district election officers to land at or take off from commercial airports.
The air traffic control shall inform the chief electoral officer (CEO) about travel plans of chartered aircraft or helicopters as early as possible,preferably half-an-hour in advance.
Hand baggage of poll candidates and passengers not exempt under rules but permitted to avail the facility of a vehicle to go up to aircraft shall also be screened by CISF or police without relaxation.
CISF shall also immediately report to the income tax department detection of cash exceeding Rs 10 lakh or bullion weighing 1 kg or more in baggage flying to or from poll-bound states.
In March 2011,Election Commission of India had ordered transfer of taxmen posted at IGI Airport for allowing Trinamool MP K D Singh to board a private jet to poll-bound Assam with Rs 57 lakh.
In an April 8,2011,circular,BCAS had asked all agencies to be extra vigilant and monitor movement of candidates on private aircraft and helicopters to poll-bound states.
BCAS has now asked CISF,police and the I-T department to develop own SOPs in such a way that the entire event,right from detection to seizure or release at the airport,is captured by CCTVs and video cameras.
BCAS has also asked these agencies to instal CCTVs in interrogation chambers and preserve footage for three months and when required,(make it) available to the election commission or the CEO.
At remote and uncontrolled airports and helipads,flying squads or police will carry out screening and physical checking of all baggage in coordination with pilots.
During election process,rules and procedures with regard to frisking and checking of persons and baggage should be strictly enforced without exception, the BCAS order states.