New Delhi: India’s aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has barred nine of its officers from taking any decisions regarding airlines where their wards work, as part of an ongoing campaign to cleanse the system.
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In a 3 May note issued with the approval of DGCA director general Bharat Bhushan and reviewed by Mint, the regulator asked joint director general Charan Dass whose ward works in SpiceJet Ltd, joint director general A.K. Sharan whose ward works for IndiGo, run by InterGlobe Aviation Pvt. Ltd, director of airworthiness V.P. Massey whose wards work for SpiceJet and IndiGo, director of air safety R.S. Passi whose ward works for SpiceJet, and five others from having anything to do with the respective airlines.
Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, Jet Airways (India) Ltd and Air India Ltd are other airlines employing wards of senior DGCA officials.
While there is no evidence yet that these officers favoured the airlines that employed their wards, investigations by Mint and The Times of India have shown that wards of Passi and Sharan were hired as pilots despite concerns about their ability to safely pilot aircraft.
Mint reviewed the note late Thursday evening and didn’t have the time to contact each of the officials named in the note.
“There is a question of collateral responsibility. This officer sitting in DGCA has obviously used his influence to get his ward in to one of the airlines. That’s an inference you can draw. And I would readily draw that inference,” Bhushan said in an interview on 28 March.
The regulatory responsibilities of some of the officers named in the note are as significant as the number of wards of senior DGCA officials employed by the airlines. The officers head critical functions such as air safety, aircraft airworthiness, and engineering.
The regulator’s move is aimed at doing away with any potential conflict of interest. DGCA had previously promised to address the issue while investigating a case where some serving pilots had submitted fake mark sheets.
In the course of the investigation, it discovered that one pilot had misused the official position of a guardian in DGCA to land a job with an airline.
At least 15 people, including five pilots and three DGCA officials, have been arrested in Delhi and Jaipur since February as part of that investigation.
The 3 May note also warns these officers against signing any document related to any of these airlines and instead required them to depute responsibility to their immediate subordinate.
“In case of change of the aviation Co. by the kin of a particular officer, he/she should duly report the same to all concerned. In all such cases the officer will ensure that he/she does not deal with any related papers/proposals, etc.” of the airline concerned, the note said.
Other officials named in the note are M.M. Kaushal, assistant director, whose ward works for Jet Airways; Rajiv Gaur, assistant director, whose ward works for Merlinhawk Aerospace Pvt. Ltd; R. Yadav, senior airworthiness officer, whose wards work for Air India and Kingfisher Airlines; B.S. Nehra, junior pilot, whose ward works for AkashGanga Airlines Ltd; and R.N.S. Bisht, an assistant at the regulator, whose ward works for Religare Aviation Ltd.
In the 28 March interview, Bhushan had said DGCA couldn’t “proceed against a guy just because his son or daughter is employed in an airline”.
“But if he or she (the ward) has obtained a (pilot’s) licence through false means, that’s a different thing,” he said.
Sudhakar Reddy, national president of Chennai-based consumer body Air Passenger Association of India and a member of the government’s Civil Aviation Economic Advisory Council established in December, wants all nine officers to be sacked.
“The biggest concern is that here sons and daughtersuse their father’s name behind them. It is an industry where safety comes first and if you don’t have experience and wherewithal, then you can’t do anything. All nine must be sacked. We cannot be living with wrongdoers all the time. There is no need for any inquiry; they should be just dismissed,” Reddy said.