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Kalam frisked at IGI airport
Published on 22 Jul. 2009 12:23 AM IST
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In a breach of protocol, former President A P J Abdul Kalam, who is exempted from security checks due to his status, was frisked by an American airlines at the international airport here before boarding the aircraft. The Civil Aviation Ministry has ordered a probe into the incident involving the ground security staff of Continental Airlines which subjected Kalam to security check before he was to board a Newark-bound flight on April 24. "The incident took place on April 24 at the Indira Gandhi international airport when Kalam was travelling to the US. He was treated like an ordinary passenger," sources close to Kalam told PTI. They said Kalam did not take up the issue with the government. "It is the airline policy to check everyone. They never listen to any Indian agency," they said. Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) is investigating the matter and action will be taken against whosoever is found responsible. "I just got to know about the incident. We will ask for corrective action and we will ask the concerned people to apologise," he told reporters here. Describing the incident as a "normal security procedure", the airline Public Relations Officer Aparna said "there is no special rule for VIPs and VVIPs. This is the process the airline adheres to." The former president also had to "surrender" before the staff for a complete body check, the sources claimed. Aparna said Kalam was "very cooperative" and "he happily underwent the entire process". DIG CISF (Airport Security) Udyan Banerjee said the first level of security check, which is conducted by the force, was waived but a second level of checking is done by the airlines. This is not for the first time an Indian VIP has been frisked at an airport. Last year, the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was frisked at Moscow airport. In 2003, the then Defence Minister George Fernandes was also made to undergo security screening in the US. Notice to Continental; unavoidable, says airline Holding that the frisking of former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was "absolutely unpardonable", the government Tuesday ordered an inquiry and issued notice to Continental Airlines for its "wilful violation" of Indian laws. The US carrier justified the move saying it was in accordance with procedure. Continental Airlines said frisking was the procedure mandatory for all carriers flying to the US and said there was no exemption to this rule. "As all carriers flying to the US, Continental Airlines must follow the requirements and procedures of the US Department of Homeland Security. This procedure is followed by all carriers flying to the US from most of the countries in the world and there is no exemption to this rule," the airlines said in a statement. Laurent Recoura, senior country director (India), Continental Airlines, said: "We believe that Dr. Kalam was not offended and we would like to thank him again for flying with us." But the Indian government reacted sharply and ordered an inquiry into the incident. According to an official with the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), a police complaint against the airline was also likely to be filed soon. "The airline has flouted civil aviation norms and we would be be filing an FIR (first information report) very soon," he said. The issue created waves in parliament. "The frisking was absolutely unpardonable," Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel said in the Rajya Sabha. "Action will be taken in accordance with the sentiments of the house." The statement came after MPs from across the spectrum expressed outrage over Kalam being reportedly subjected to a full body check and even asked to remove his footwear as he waited on the aerobridge of the Newark-bound flight at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) recently. "Continental Airlines has been issued a showcause notice under section 11A of the Aircraft Act for wilful violation of the law," Patel said. "The frisking or action per se was absolutely wrong. The former president and other such dignitaries are exempt from such frisking," Patel pointed out. Patel also denied reports that security operations at the airport had been outsourced. "Security has not been outsourced. It is still the responsibility of the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force). This incident involved the security of the airline at the embarkation point," Patel pointed out. The Congress also said the incident must be probed to find out the reasons why it happened. "I believe they do not acknowledge that he was the former president of the republic of India and if someone like that is considered to be a security threat, it's very unfortunate. I really don't know whether this has something to do with the name as well, in which case it is much more serious," Yechury told reporters.

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