The News Minute| June 11, 2014|
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday asked the CBI to file a case against former union minister Praful Patel and others for seeking to place with a Canadian firm an order for a passenger identification system for Air India at an inflated price, allegedly in return for a consideration.
Bhushan, in a letter to the Central Bureau of Investigation Director Ranjit Kumar, said the registration of an FIR or regular case against Patel, former Air India Chief V. Thulasidas and other officials becomes imperative after a Candian court convicted Nazir Karigar of Cryptometrics for "having offered to bribe" them.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice had convicted Karigar Aug 15, 2013, for having offered to bribe Patel and Thulasidas for securing the contract for supplying a biometric passenger identification system for Air India. The court sentenced Karigar to three years in prison May 23.
"Despite this, no action has been taken against any Indian public official by the authorities in India," Bhushan wrote in the letter to CBI.
Describing it as an "open and shut case of high-level corruption involving former Union Minister of Civil Aviation Praful Patel, former Chairperson of Air India V. Thulasidas and others", Bhushan also referred to the "remarkable book" by former Executive Director of Air India Jitender Bhargava.
Bhushan said he would "approach the Supreme Court in case no FIR is registered by the CBI in the next two weeks".
The matter relates to 2006, when a proposal was mooted in Air India for installing a biometric passenger identification system at select domestic and international airports.
besides, Bhushan said initially the "cost estimate of the Security Department was about Rs.75 lakh, but the tender committee on the basis of bids received pegged the cost at a whopping about Rs,500 crore".
In response to a tender for the purchase of biometric passenger identification system, 20 bids were received including one by the PSU Electronic Corporation of India (ECI). Eighteen bids were rejected including one by Electronic Corporation of India. Two that survived the shortlisting were Canadian firms.
Pointing out how the national carrier went on accommodating the Canadian firm, Bhushan said while the ECI's for the inclusion of no termination clause in the contract was rejected but when the same was sought by the Canadian firm Cryptometrics and it was conceded.
The project to acquire the biometric passenger identification system fell through, after it was red flagged by the finance department as there was no justification for such a huge expenditure as the national carrier was itself reeling under huge losses, the letter said.
"Cryptometrics was on the verge of being awarded the contract at a cost of Rs.500 crore (at then exchange rate). Though the tender committee had almost recommended placement of contract with all three committee members having already signed the document, the project was fortunately dropped. This was due to the objections raised by an upright officer in the finance department", Bhushan said in the letter.