The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday cleared the way for removal and sale of AN-26b small cargo aircraft, which dropped a huge quantity of arms and ammunition in Purulia villages on December 15, 1995.
Justices DP Sengupta and PK Deb granted permission to the Bengal government to remove and sell the aircraft, which has been parked at the Air traffic control (ATC) complex of the Sahar International airport in Mumbai, within six weeks. The directive came on a petition filed by the Mumbai International Airport Authority (MIAA) seeking direction for sale or removal of the aircraft.
“Due to parking of the aircraft at the ATC complex, the airport authority is unable to complete the expansion of the Sahar International airport,” said MIAA’s advocate Milon Mukherjee.
But the judges granted permission to the Bengal government after the state advocate general Balai Ray told the court that while convicting the accused persons in 2000 the trial court had confiscated the offending aircraft to the state. “Since there is no claimant to the aircraft, it has become the state’s property. The state would repay the sale value if anyone could prove its claim over the aircraft,” the AG said.
The aircraft has been valued at Rs 10.89 lakh against the reported purchase price of Rs 1 crore in 1995, when a Danish national Kim Davy had purchased it from Latavio, a Latvian airline, which became bankrupt, and also hired its five-member crew.
“Davy had paid Rs 1 crore for the aircraft, together with some spares which are still sitting in a warehouse at Karachi airport. No doubt the authorities there are getting as fed up as the authorities at Mumbai. It would be rather amusing if they decided to sell the spares at the same time as Mumbai sells the aircraft,” said Peter Bleach.
The court had awarded the aircraft to the Bengal government in 2000, they could easily have sold it back then and got a reasonable price for it. “Now, I am afraid that selling it for scrap is the only option available. I would doubt if any of the parts are even worth much by now. However, as aluminium scarp, it will be worth quite a lot,” Bleach said.