Thursday, August 30, 2012

Top civil aviation official held guilty of fraud reinstated

MUMBAI: In a surprising move, joint director-general of civil aviation A K Sharan, against whom the Central Vigilance Commission and the aviation ministry recommended major penalty proceedings last month and who was under suspension after being found guilty of fraud, has been reinstated with no action taken against him. "With this, the civil aviation ministry seems to have sent out a message that the misuse of power and use of fraudulent means to help one's kin acquire a pilot's license is acceptable in the civil aviation regulatory body," a senior commander told TOI.

Last year, following a TOI expose, the then director-general of civil aviation Bharat Bhushan had ordered the inquiry to investigate if Sharan had misused his power to help his daughter fraudulently obtain a commercial pilot license (CPL). The inquiry found him guilty and Bhushan sent the vigilance report to the civil aviation ministry, recommending action against Sharan. The ministry sat on the file for over a year, did its own investigations and finally last month held Sharan guilty and asked the CVC to initiate major penalty proceedings (dismissal or demotion) against him.

A final decision on disciplinary action was to be taken by the Union Public Service Commission which appoints personnel for the aviation regulator. "But all of it was set aside this week and Sharan was cleared to join duty and head the air transport department. No action has been taken against him though he was proved guilty beyond doubt. The civil aviation ministry and the director-general could not have sent out a clearer message that vigilance inquiries are a sham," said an aviation source. In July this year, the ministry shunted out Bhushan and Samir Sahai, the officer who carried out a number of vigilance inquiries in DGCA.

Commenting on the issue, the new director-general of civil aviation Arun Mishra said, "Sharan is a joint secretary-level officer and the ministry was dealing with this matter, not DGCA. The decision to suspend and to reinstate him was the ministry's." Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh was not available for comment.

"Despite incriminating evidence against Sharan, the aviation ministry has let him go scot-free. They should apply the same standard and forgive all the pilots who were arrested last year for submitting fake mark sheets to obtain a pilot license," said a senior commander. Early last year, DGCA had cracked down on flying schools and pilots who had employed fraudulent means to obtain a CPL. The licensees of many pilots were suspended and cases were filed against more than a dozen who had submitted fake mark sheets.

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