Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has denied delaying the Air India flight to the US, saying reports in this regard were "misleading" and that he will initiate "criminal defamation" proceedings when he returns to India.
"Enough is enough. Once I m back to India I will initiate proceedings of criminal defamation," Fadnavis, on a week-long trip to America to woo investment to the state, tweeted on Thursday.
Enough is enough. Once I m back to India I will initiate proceedings of criminal defamation.— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) July 2, 2015
However, he did not specify against whom he plans to take legal action.
"I reiterate, the reports of me delaying flight are misleading. In fact when I'd already boarded, how can I say I won't travel without delegation?" said Fadnavis on Twitter.
"If at all any report that has been submitted states that I refused to travel without my delegation then it is a blatant lie, because passengers sitting besides & behind me are witness that I was sitting quietly waiting for departure. Not even once I asked to offload me," the chief minister said.
I reiterate,the reports of me delaying flight are misleading.Infact when I'd already boarded how can I say I wont travel without delegation?— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) July 2, 2015
As per the Air India, flight AI191 to Newark from Mumbai was delayed by 57 minutes partly due to technical/operational reasons, and also the ATC.
The alleged incident took place on Monday when Fadnavis was leaving on a week-long visit to the US along with industries minister Subhash Desai, chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya and principal secretary Pravin Pardeshi.
As per the media reports, Pardeshi was cleared at the check-in, but was held back as the passport he was carrying did not have a valid US visa. He had a valid US visa on his old passport. He arranged to bring his old passport after which he was allowed to proceed to the aircraft.
Congress has targeted Fadnavis over the issue, with former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan demanding that he apologise if he had caused the delay.
"If Fadnavis did request for delaying the flight, then he must apologise. Nobody can delay the flight except for safety reasons. By interfering with the flight procedure, Fadnavis inconvenienced the hundreds of passengers on board," Chavan, a senior Congress leader said, told PTI.
"If it is proved that Fadnavis made a request to Air India for delaying the flight, then he is responsible. Action must be taken against him (that officer) for interfering with the airline safety," he added.
Fadnavis' denial came even as Union civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Thursday apologised for the recent incidents were Air India flights were delayed to accommodate VIPs.
"We apologise to all passengers who have faced inconvenience. We will avoid such incidents in future, will ensure such incidents don't recur," Raju said at a press conference after the incidents involving union minister Kiren Rijiju and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis raised a storm of protests.
Rijiju was accused of delaying a flight at Leh on June 24 and then taking the place of three passengers, including a child, who were asked to disembark.