Taking a serious note of the "unpardonable" act of frisking of former President A P J Abdul Kalam at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, the government has slapped a show cause notice to the US-based Continental Airlines for violating guidelines."Not only the preliminary inquiry has been ordered but we also have a preliminary report on the basis of which Continental Airlines has been issued a show cause notice why action for wilful violation should not be taken," Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
Patel was responding to the anguish expressed by the entire House, including Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan, over the "humiliation" meted out to the Bharat Ratna, whom they described as the tallest figure and a national hero.Kalam was frisked by the Airlines at the embarkation point some time back when he was going to the US.
Unfazed by the controversy surrounding its action, Continental Airlines implied on Friday that former President A P J Abdul Kalam was not exempt from frisking before boarding the aircraft. "TSA (Transportation Security Administration of US Department of Homeland Security) requirements impose a final security check in the aero-bridge just before boarding the aircraft.
"This procedure is followed by all carriers flying to the US from most of the countries in the world and there is no exemption to this rule," a statement from Continental Airlines said in the wake of a furore over frisking of Kalam three months ago at the international airport in New Delhi when he was going to US.
It said as all carriers flying to the USA, Continental Airlines must follow TSA requirements and procedures. The statement said Continental Airlines was honoured and proud to have had a distinguished customer and "we hope former president Kalam has been pleased by our service". "Security and custom service are key component for us at Continental Airlines. We believe that Dr Kalam was not offended and we would like to thank him again for flying with us," the statement said.
Associating himself with the strong sentiments expressed in the House during Zero Hour, Patel said, "this act of frisking the former President is absolutely unpardonable and beyond the scope of laws of our country". Patel said he would not only take action against the Airlines, but also speak to the Minister of External Affairs on the issue.
Responding to Left members' demand that the operation of Continental Airlines be suspended immediately, he said any action that India takes would be in consonance with international practice. "We cannot take action in isolation". He said the airports security is handled by the Central Industrial Security Force and frisking happens only at the embarkation point, manned by the airlines staff. "I can assure the House, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security will take most stringent action," Patel said, adding that he would "personally explain the position and express regret to Kalam".
Patel said while India accords the highest protocol to foreign dignitaries, it expected the same from them. Demanding a probe into the incident, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India-Marxist wondered whether the frisking had anything to do with the name Abdul Kalam. He said if that is so, it is "much more serious". Taking serious note of the incident, the Deputy Chairman said "I hope government will take action".
Terming the incident as "outrageous", Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said "It is an issue which puts the whole nation into shame". Jaitley said whenever a foreign dignitary visits the country, the government sends a vehicle to the tarmac andprovides exemption from security rules, but Indian dignitaries and former ministers are frisked. He asked whether the government would look into this policy. Janeshwar Mishra of the Samajwadi Party said the government should send astrong message to the US that India will not tolerate such incidents. "This is an act of ill-intention and we will not tolerate it at any cost," he said, warning that after all US former Presidents also visit India.