A day after Jharkhand Police lodged an FIR against BJP MPs Nishikant Dubey and Manoj Tiwari, Dubey’s two sons and others, saying they “forcefully” took flight clearance on August 31 from the Air Traffic Control at Deoghar airport, which is not yet ready for night operations, Delhi Police filed an FIR Saturday on Dubey’s complaint. It invoked the sedition charge against the Deoghar Deputy Commissioner and Jharkhand police officers for “playing with national security” by entering a “restricted” area of Deoghar airport.
The ‘zero FIR’, which Delhi Police sent to the Kunda police station in Deoghar for investigation, stated: “MP Nishikant Dubey, Chairman, Deoghar Airport Advisory Committee has lodged a complaint at P.S. North Avenue (11.34 am September 3)… Prima facie offences under IPC section 124A (sedition), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of duty), 448 (house trespass), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence), 506 (criminal intimidation),120B (criminal conspiracy) and Officials Secrets Act.”
Reached for comment, Deoghar Deputy Commissioner Manjunath Bhajantri told The Indian Express: “It (FIR) is an absurd and 100 per cent concocted story… an afterthought… (after) getting caught violating security protocol. During investigation by the competent authorities, everything will be uncovered, black and white.”
In Deoghar, the FIR against Dubey and others was registered at Kunda police station on September 1 on the complaint of security in-charge Suman Anand who said they had violated “safety standards” by entering the ATC room and had pressured officials to grant take-off clearance though there was “no facility of night take off/landing”.
According to the FIR, on August 31, the local sunset timing was 1803 hours and “air services” were “to be conducted up to 1730 hours”.
DC Bhajantri, in a letter to the Principal Secretary, Cabinet-Coordination (Civil Aviation), Jharkhand, said: “Dubey and others came inside the ATC room… the security in-charge said that the pilot and the passengers were pressuring for clearance to take off, which was given.” The letter had the complaint of the security in-charge, later converted into an FIR.
Dubey’s complaint, which too was converted into an FIR in Delhi, said he was supposed to travel to Delhi on August 31 and after the security check, he boarded a chartered flight at 5.25 pm on August 31.
Since a case is pending in Jharkhand High Court regarding lack of night landing facilities and he did not have enough time, Dubey said he walked barefoot to the airport director’s office to discuss the matter.
“While I was going, the Jharkhand Police and employees (of the state government) stopped me and abused my two sons, who were coming towards me carrying my slippers, and threatened to kill me. They obstructed my work at the instance of Deoghar DC, which I came to know the next day as he (DC) had entered the Deoghar airport’s secured DRDO-restricted area where one goes only after PMO’s permission,” the Delhi Police FIR stated, quoting Dubey.
As matters escalated, a Twitter war erupted between Dubey and Bhajantri. The MP asked the DC: “…How did you get inside the airport and under what authority? Who gave you the permission to see CCTV footage? You are frustrated, be the Chief Minister’s sycophant and be cool.”
Who gave you permission to enter CCTV room? Apron? ATC tower? You breached all the norms. Pathetic https://t.co/fXFcJaRxzD
— Dr Nishikant Dubey (@nishikant_dubey) September 2, 2022
To this, Bhajantri replied that he had the authority and took a “gate pass” for entry. Dubey said: “Who gave you the permission to enter the Apron? ATC Tower? You breached all norms. Pathetic.” Bhajantri rejected the charge. Dubey said the officer had breached national security. When Bhajantri asked who gave Dubey and his children the permission to enter the ATC, the MP said he had taken permission.
To enter the ATC premises, a person requires an Aerodrome Entry Permit (AEP) that is issued by the airport operator in concurrence with the security agency in charge of the airport.
While at bigger airports, the CISF undertakes security responsibilities, at a smaller airport like Deoghar, it is the state police that manages security roles. The security in-charge of Deoghar airport is DSP Suman Anand.
Even for the AEP, a person needs prior approval to enter the ATC building. In the AEP application form that is issued by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), there are 13 zones that a person can enter. These include arrival hall, departure hall, terminal building, security hold area, apron area, ATC building, ATC tower and cargo terminal building.
However, access authorisations are granted on a need basis. For example, airline ground staff, who may have authorisation to enter the arrival hall, departure hall, terminal building and security hold area, may not have authorisation to enter ATC tower or the ATC building.
According to an October 2007 order by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on the subject “Courtesy towards Members of Parliament at Airports”, a “Member of Parliament may be allowed free access in the Terminal building and Visitors’ Gallery on the basis of MPs Identity Card”, but it does not state whether MPs are allowed to enter ATC premises. The order was circulated by the Ministry again in January 2020.
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Deoghar airport, which was inaugurated in July this year, lacks the facilities to conduct night operations. In reply to a question in Rajya Sabha on July 25, the government said there are 25 airports in the country, including Deoghar, without night-landing facilities.
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