New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought response from the Centre on an NGO's plea seeking a direction to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to inquire into purchase orders of 111 aircraft costing a whopping Rs 67,000 crore to Air India.

A bench headed by Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri issued notice to the Centre, Air India, CVC, CBI and CAG directing them to file their response within four weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on November 23.

The direction of the court came on a plea of Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking CVC inquiry into aircraft purchase deals of Air India and the role played by the Civil Aviation Ministry.

"The petitioner (CPIL) requests this court to direct the CVC to conduct a thorough inquiry into aircraft acquisition deals of Air India and its loss of market-share by giving up profitable routes and timings, and the role played by the Civil Aviation Ministry. If the CVC finds a prima facie case, it can then get the matter investigated through the CBI as per law," the application said.

Earlier, the High Court had issued notices to Centre, Air India, CVC, CBI and CAG on CPIL's petition.

Later, it had also asked CVC and the CAG about action taken by them on the issues raised in the petition.

The NGO, in its fresh application, cited the CAG report to buttress its plea that the Civil Aviation Ministry acted in "haste and in mala fide" manner.

The PIL alleged that the Ministry of Civil Aviation "through its deliberate and mala fide decisions and actions", drove the Air India and Indian Airlines into heavy losses.

"The government went in for a huge fleet expansion programme in which purchase orders for 111 aircraft were given. This unnecessary expansion was made without any proper study and without any transparency. The purchase orders of the aircraft were given costing a whopping Rs 67,000 crore," it said.

The NGO said even Parliamentary committees, in their reports, had recommended a probe into "entire fleet expansion program" way back in 2010 but no action has been taken.

Besides the fleet expansion programme, the government gave away profitable routes to private airlines in the name of rationalisation.

"Through deliberate and mala fide decisions of the government, major profit making routes and timings were given to one or two private airlines causing a huge loss of market share to the national carriers.

"Foreign airlines were given unrestricted entry into India and major routes were given to them without taking any reciprocal benefits for Air India. Despite warning that these actions would result in heavy loss of market share to our national carrier, the Civil Aviation Ministry continued with its unprecedented reckless actions. This was done when the Ministry had forced Air India to purchase a large number of planes," the CPIL application said.

CAG has examined the entire aspect of purchase of aircrafts and the role of the civil aviation ministry, it said, adding that the report of the top accounting body confirmed the plea CPIL.

(Agencies)