The civil aviation ministry on Tuesday removed EK Bharat Bhushan as chief of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), exactly a week after his tenure was extended by the appointments committee of cabinet, headed by the PM.
In an unprecedented and dramatic action, Bhushan, 57, came to know of the order only when his successor, Prashant Sukul, joint secretary in the ministry, came to take charge, sources said.
Bhushan’s removal, they said, comes close on the heels of a warning issued by the aviation safety regulator about the grim financial condition of Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) and the possibility of its licence being revoked. A KFA spokesperson refused comment.
The sources also said the DGCA had opposed a proposal by an airline to bring in aircraft older than 15 years and had refused permission for wet leasing of aircraft by a new operator. (Under a wet lease, an airline provides the aircraft, crew, maintenance and other services.)
Under Bhushan, the DGCA unearthed the fake pilot scam.
The sources said there were “procedural lapses” in Bhushan getting an extension.
Aviation minister Ajit Singh has written to the PM explaining the circumstances, they said, adding that the ministry had asked for Bhushan’s replacement in February itself.
Sukul has been given additional charge of the DGCA. This decision, too, has left many surprised as the ministry had recommended Arun Mishra, a 1986-batch IAS officer, to the cabinet secretariat and expected his name to be cleared soon, the sources said.
Bhushan - who is unlikely to revert back to his role as financial adviser to the ministry - was initially given additional charge of the DGCA in December 2010 for six months. This was followed by a six-month extension. On July 3, the appointments committee gave him another extension with effect from December 1, 2011 for a year or till the appointment of a regular incumbent.
However, after this order, the ministry did not issue Bhushan an extension order, which is the norm.