Former Lok Sabha MP Baijayant Panda has sought the Odisha DGP's intervention for release of the helicopter sealed by the police saying the DGCA has given him a clean chit over charges that he had flown dangerously low over the Chilika lake.
In a letter to DGP R P Sharma, Panda said the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has conducted a probe and concluded that "there was no violation of DGCA rules and regulations" by the chopper used by him. Panda, an industrialist-turned-politician, quit the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in May following his suspension for "anti-party activities". Panda's chopper was seized by the police on September 17 for allegedly flying dangerously over the Chilika Lake, an eco-sensitive zone in the coastal belt of Odisha.
"Based on fact and evidence, it could not be established that the helicopter has flown dangerously below the assigned altitude or have landed at Chilika Lake on September 15, 2018," the DGCA said in a letter to the director of the Bhubaneswar Airport last month.
The helicopter belonged to Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys Ltd (IMFA), a company owned by the Panda family. Panda said the DGCA, the statutory body in India for aviation matters had provided a copy of its investigation report to the Puri Police, authorities of the Biju Patnaik International Airport and Odisha government on October 25.
The Puri Police had sealed the hangar of the IMFA in Bhubaneswar airport following a complaint that his chopper flew at low altitude over Chilika Lake on September 15.
Though allegation was made against one helicopter (VT-BDP), other two choppers (VT-ILA & VT- BBI) inside the hangar was also sealed. Despite repeated requests that the helicopters require periodic check-ups for cleaning and maintenance, no step was taken by the police, Panda wrote in his letter dated October 31.
He said though the hangar was unsealed and two helicopters were released, the VT-BDP chopper was again sealed on October 29 three days after submission of the DGCA report. This time the helicopter was sealed on the pretext of seeking clarification from the DGCA regarding the altitude of the flying, the former Kendrapara MP said. "I urge you to personally intervene and give appropriate direction to end this type of blatant harassment and release the helicopter VT-BDP immediately," Panda said in the letter.
He said any further delay would result in financial implications on the chopper's maintenance costs, its future safety and would attract financial liabilities as well as charges of malafide intent on the police and the state government.
(With inputs from agencies.)