Clean chit to Praful Patel in Air India-Indian Airline merger case

CBI files closure report in Air India-Indian Airlines merger case, 8 months Praful Patel joined NDA.
Clean chit to Praful Patel in Air India-Indian Airline merger case

Eight months after NCP leader Praful Patel, along with Ajit Pawar and other party leaders, joined the NDA, the CBI has filed a closure report in the Air India-Indian Airlines merger case.

Patel, who served as Union Civil Aviation Minister during the merger, was one of the main suspects in the case. He had been questioned by both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The ED had previously informed a special court in May 2019 that Praful Patel was a close associate of middleman Deepak Talwar. Talwar allegedly facilitated the allocation of profitable Air India routes to private airlines during 2008-09 using his connections with the minister and aviation personnel in India.

The CBI filed the closure report on March 19 in the court of Special Judge (CBI), Rouse Avenue Court, Prashant Kumar. The court has scheduled April 15 for considering the CBI's submission.

In June last year, Patel attended an Opposition bloc meeting in Patna with NCP supremo Sharad Pawar. However, the following month, he left the party along with Ajit Pawar and six other leaders to join the NDA. The Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP is now part of the Eknath Shinde government in Maharashtra, with Ajit Pawar serving as Deputy CM.

The case revolves around the AI-IA merger to form the National Aviation Corporation of India Ltd (NACIL), which involved leasing a high number of aircraft and the purchase of 111 aircraft from Airbus and Boeing. It also includes allegations related to the ceding of profitable routes to foreign airlines, corruption in the establishment of training institutes with foreign investment, and Patel's alleged connections with lobbyist Deepak Talwar.

To investigate these matters, the CBI registered four FIRs in May 2017 following a Supreme Court order earlier that year. The closure report has been filed in the first FIR, while investigations in other cases are ongoing.

The first FIR, registered on May 29, 2017, lists "unknown officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation" as accused and mentions Patel's name in the FIR.