In a blow to the aviation safety regulatory authority, the Bombay high court has ordered ad-interim renewal of airport entry passes (AEPs) of two Air India employees who had earlier been charged with insulting the national flag by the city police.
Air India employees KVJ Rao and MM Sharma were arrested by the city police under section 66-A and 67-A of the Information Technology (IT) Act in May, 2012 and imprisoned for 12 days. The two, however, denied the allegations saying the mischief was the result of their Facebook account being hacked by members of a rival union.
Airline and airport personnel, including cabin crew staff, require AEP for getting into the airport to discharge their duties. AEP is provided by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), a safety regulatory authority for the aviation industry in the country.
The court order pointed out that in December 2012 and again in December 2013, the petitioners had been issued AEPs. On each occasion, the application for AEPs was accompanied by copies of the bail order.
The authorities were therefore fully aware of the criminal proceedings against the two before they had issued the AEPs. However, on April 1, 2014 when the two applied for AEPs through Air India, they were informed that the final decision this time would be taken by BCAS commissioner.
"Air India, in fact, states that it's in their interest that AEPs are issued as otherwise they would be unable to avail the petitioners' service," states the court order. It further adds: "The offence occurred in 2011. For three years, the petitioners were provided AEPs."
The court therefore directed that the two be provided AEPs until the BCAS commissioner pronounces the final order. BS Tiwary, regional deputy commissioner, BCAS was not available for comment.
KVJ Rao and MM Sharma are now seeking a compensation of Rs 25 lakh for the humiliation they had been put through due to the wrongful act of the police.