Furore over Kalam frisking

Former President Abdul Kalam
While the government has filed a case against Continental for gross violation of rules that exempt certain VVIPs and VIPs from pre-embarkation security checks, Rajya Sabha erupted in anger with members across the political spectrum condemning the act.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel informed the House that “the frisking was absolutely unpardonable. Action will be taken in accordance with the sentiments of the House”.

The statement was made after MPs demanded action against those guilty of asking Kalam to remove his footwear during the check, calling it an “unpardonable” act. The incident took place on April 24 when Kalam was about to board a flight to Newark, New Jersey.

As he proceeded toward boarding the aircraft, Continental Airlines staff frisked him in contravention of rules even though CISF personnel on duty pointed out that Kalam was exempt from such checks.

An enquiry ordered into the matter established that the staff had wrongfully, under the direction of their security-in-charge, country director and station manager, carried out pre-embarkation body check on Kalam. A show cause notice was issued on July 9, to the airline’s station manager asking why action should not be taken against Continental under Section 11A of the Aircraft Act, 1934.  As no reply was forthcoming, a case was registered for willful violation of the ministry’s directions.

“The frisking or action per se was absolutely wrong. The former President and other such dignitaries are exempt from such frisking,” Patel told the Rajya Sabha while referring to rules that exempt certain VIPs from checks in airports.

The issue was taken up during Zero Hour by Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley, who strongly objected to the check carried out on Kalam. “It is an issue which puts the whole nation to shame,” Jaitley said, adding that whenever foreign dignitaries visited India, a vehicle was sent on to the tarmac to receive them, while Indian dignitaries are frisked.

Senior Samajwadi Party leader Janeshwar Mishra desribed the frisking an act of “ill intention” and said the government should tell the US that “we will not tolerate it at any cost”.

Congress’ Jayanthi Natarajan said what was deplorable was that such an incident had occurred on Indian soil, and demanded that Continental Airlines should not be allowed to fly in India till all the officials involved in the incident were taken to task.

Members condemned the “outrageous” act that “humiliated” the Bharat Ratna Kalam, whom they described as India’s national hero.

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