PMO summons report on Devendra Fadnavis, Kiren Rijiju delaying AI flights

New Delhi(DNA): Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Thursday sought a report from civil aviation ministry on allegations that Union minister Kiren Rijiju and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had caused inconvenience to passengers of Air India owing to their VIP status.

Fadnavis on Thursday stuck to his stand that he did not delay the Air India flight he took to the US, dubbing the reports in this regard as “misleading” and said that on returning home he will initiate “criminal defamation” proceedings in the matter.

Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who tendered an apology, said such “indefensible” incidents should never have happened. However, Raju also said the incident is “too small” for the PMO to step in.
The official spokesman tweeted that PMO has asked “ministry of civil aviation for a report on delay in Air India flights on account of VIP travels in the recent past”.

The civil aviation ministry, in turn, has sought a report from Air India on the two incidents. “We are awaiting reports on the (two) incidents from Air India,” civil aviation secretary RN Choubey said, adding it would take a call on the matter after receiving the reports.

The development came after reports surfaced about inconvenience caused to passengers of two flights of Air India since June 24 because of Rijiju and Fadnavis.

A media report surfaced on Wednesday that on June 24, three members of a family, including a child, were offloaded from Leh-Delhi Air India flight at Leh to accommodate Rijiju along with Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh and an aide. This also led to some delay in the flight.

Rijiju claimed it was not a “delay” as the departure of the flight was advanced due to technical reasons, but Singh giving a new spin to the controversy accused the pilot of misbehaving with him. In a letter to civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Singh sought action against the pilot and other officers for “rude behaviour” and causing “anguish” to the people of Ladakh.

Another report a few days back said that an Air India flight to Newark from Mumbai was delayed by nearly an hour on June 29 after it was reported that an aide of Fadnavis travelling with him had not carried his passport with valid US visa.

Principal secretary Pravin Pardeshi was cleared at the check-in but was held back before boarding as the passport he was carrying did not have the valid visa.

Meanwhile, CM Devendra Fadnavis who is presently in the US for a week-long official trip blasted the media reports in a series of tweets. “I reiterate, the reports of me delaying flight are misleading. In fact when I’d already boarded how can I say I won’t travel without delegation? If at all any report that has been submitted, states that I refused to travel without my delegation then it is a blatant lie because… passengers sitting besides & behind me are witness that I was sitting quietly waiting for departure. Not even once I asked to offload me.” He further added, ” Enough is enough. Once I’m back to India I will initiate proceedings of criminal defamation.”