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Supreme Court notice on plea seeking Radia tapes on aviation deals

Friday, 6 December 2013 - 11:18pm IST | Agency: IANS

The Supreme Court Friday issued notice on BJP leader Subramanian Swamy's plea for direction to Income Tax authorities to place before the court authenticated copies of tapes of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia on working of middlemen and kickbacks in aviation sector.

A bench of Chief Justice P.Sathasivam, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi issued notice as it said that it would Jan 7, 2014, hold hearing on Swamy's PIL challenging the Jet-Etihad deal and its approval by the government permitting the UAE's national carrier to acquire 24 percent stake in Jet Airways.

The notice has also been issued on Swamy's plea for direction to the corporate affairs ministry to produce before the court the copy of May 22 memo from the Prime Minister's Office on Jet-Etihad deal titled "Impact of Middle Eastern carriers on Indian Airlines".

The application has sought the copy of the cabinet note that incorporates the response of the ministry to the memo.

The court has given the government four weeks to file its response that would be taken up for hearing Jan 7.

Though Swamy urged the court to hold an early hearing as the government was going ahead with the steps for executing the deal, the court said there was no time as it would have its winter break shortly.

Seeking to be placed, on record, the portion of the Radia tapes dealing with working of touts and middlemen and kickbacks in aviation sector, Swamy in his application referred to media reports which allege that "about $2,400 per seat is the agreed rate of bribe for public officials in the bilateral agreement".

His application maintains that the Radia tapes concerning working of middlemen in aviation sector and the PMO's memo and the ministry's response to it are the material to the adjudication of the grounds raised by him in the PIL challenging the Jet-Eithad deal.

The working of touts and middlemen and kickbacks in aviation sector is one of the eight issues on which the apex court bench Oct 17 asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to inquire into.

These eight issues had emerged from the transcripts of Radia tapes - based on the interception of Radia's phones by the Income Tax department following an anonymous complaint on her building a business empire of Rs.300 crore within a period of nine years.

Swamy has alleged that Jet-Etihad deal was devoid of transparency as it is likely to result in "a grant of largesse of national asset in favour of a foreign airline (Etihad Airways) resulting in undue enrichment and enormous pecuniary advantage to such foreign airline at the cost and expense of the public, national and domestic airlines as well as airports".

The PIL has assailed the government for entering into agreement with the UAE permitting Eithad Airways to carry 36,670 more passengers over and above permitted 13,330 passengers per week, describing this increase in capacity entitlement as" unprecedented, arbitrary, irrational and unsustainable".

"The grant of such largesse is otherwise malafide, illegal and contrary to national and public interest as it results in creation of hurdles to the recovery and health of the national airlines as well as directly impedes the growth of domestic airports into international hubs," the PIL said.


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