The Sunday Guardian published a report CBI ‘sits on’ allegations against Praful Patel in Air India matter last Sunday, 15 May, for which a response was sought by the newspaper from the former Civil Aviation Minister’s office. The response was received on Monday evening, that is on 16 May. In an email, Praful Patel’s secretary, Champa Bharatwaj, wrote that “The matter referred to by yourself, is totally untrue and seems to be a matter of impersonation. Enclosed herewith are copies of two letters which are self-explanatory.” Two letters were received as attachments. One of them is a copy of a letter that the then Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel wrote to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 31 January 2012, stating that all allegations made against him in a bribery case lodged in Canada involving the supply of facial recognition software for Air India by a Canadian company, were “baseless and preposterous”.

Patel wrote the letter to the PM after he was contacted by the Indian representative of a Canadian newspaper to seek his response on the issue. In his letter, Patel wrote that he had made some preliminary enquiries and was informed by AI officials that in 2006, AI had floated a tender for supply of facial recognition software. But the tender, the letter said, “remained inconclusive and was scrapped virtually at the inception. No follow up action has been taken since then.” The letter further stated that “such tenders for procurement of various items are routinely issued by Air India in normal course of their business and at no stage are dealt with or even sent to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, much less to Minister for approval or otherwise.”

The letter added that “A perusal of Air India’s records would demonstrate that these allegations are baseless and false and that there was absolutely no interference whatsoever, at any level from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, or me personally in this matter.”

Patel also requested the PM that the factual position in the case should be conveyed to the authorities in Canada in order to avoid any embarrassment to Government of India or to him personally.

In response, PM Manmohan Singh wrote to Patel on 10 February 2012 stating, “I have had the matter examined. The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has clarified that the relevant tender was not pursued after it was noted that the procurement was not cost effective and would lower the yield. MoCA has further informed that all the acquisitions are within the purview of the Air India in accordance with the Articles of Association and such cases are not refereed to the Ministry.”

Dr Singh also stated that the Ministry of External Affairs has been asked to convey the facts to the Canadian authorities concerned.

Here are the copies of the letters.

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