The Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Thursday said that former Lok Sabha MP Baijayant Panda did not violate any rules while flying a helicopter over the Chilika lake, which is a no-fly zone. The aviation regulator said that it could not establish if the chopper was dangerously flown, PTI reported.
Last month, the Odisha Police seized Panda’s helicopter and filed a First Information Report against him. The move came after an official of the Chilika Development Authority lodged a police complaint, claiming that Panda’s helicopter made the atmosphere noxious and fouled the water in the lake.
DGCA Director of Air Safety MJ Singh on Thursday wrote a letter to the director of the Bhubaneswar Airport, saying that the probe concluded that there was no violation of DGCA rules and regulations. “Based on fact and evidence, it could not be established that the helicopter has flown dangerously below the assigned altitude or have landed at Chilika Lake on September 15, 2018,” wrote Singh.
The letter stated that the DGCA had observed no significant deviation in the filed flight plan timings and its actual timings. The chopper had also flown non-stop cross-country from the Bhubaneswar Airport and to Rajhans, Puri, and Konark before landing at Garadpur. No other helicopter flew over Rajhans (an island in the Chilika lake) on the same day, said the DGCA, and added the helicopter was airworthy and flight crew licences were current.
The former Biju Janata Dal MP described the DGCA report as a “total clean chit” and called it a case “cooked up” by the Odisha government.
The opposition parties in Odisha criticised the Biju Janata Dal government after the DGCA report. “With the DGCA giving a clean chit to Baijayant Panda, it is now clear that he was dragged into a controversy out of political vendetta,” said Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Niranjan Patnaik. “This should not be the approach of a government.”
Odisha Bharatiya Janata Party General Secretary Prithviraj Harichandan said the ruling dispensation has been unmasked and its real character thoroughly exposed.
Panda had described the police complaint and sealing of the hangar in Bhubaneswar as a “brazen attempt” to stop him from moving around.
IMFA aviation head Himansu Mohapatra said that the DGCA report was being examined internally, reported Odisha TV. “We are hopeful that the Odisha Police will now open the hangar as we have apprised them that the maintenance of helicopters is overdue,” he said.
Meanwhile, Biju Janata Dal leader Pratap Deb said, “The party has always maintained that law will take its own course which also applies to this case also.”