Aviation ministry has said that a “procedural lapse” led to Bharat Bhushan being given a year’s extension as chief of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) by the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC).
Aviation minister Ajit Singh, despite being a member of the ACC, wasn’t even aware of the July 3 order till it was announced.
In December last year, aviation ministry had sought a six-month extension for Bhushan, who held “additional charge” of DGCA. While there was no word from the ACC, Singh took charge as the new aviation minister.
“As per rules, when a new minister takes charge, the file is sent back and consent is taken from the new minister. However, that wasn’t done in this case,” an official said.Meanwhile, the aviation ministry wrote to cabinet secretariat in May proposing the name of Arun Mishra as full-time DGCA chief.
“For over two months there was no word on the proposal sent by us. Instead, Bhushan was given an extension without consulting the aviation minister and that too for a year when only a six-month extension had been sought last December,” he said.
Senior officials also denied a link between Bhushan’s removal and possibility of action against Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) or Air India (AI) by the regulator.
“Safety is our top priority and to suggest that he was transferred out because of pressure from an airline is baseless,” a ministry official said.
“Transfer of government officials is the sole prerogative of the government. It is both highly incorrect and mischievous to even suggest that the transfer of DGCA was in anyway connected to KFA,” KFA said in a statement.
A previous aviation minister, sources said, had removed two senior officials without ACC’s consent.