State booked private plane to fly Yakub's body back?
It was amid intense public scrutiny that Yakub Memon’s remains were flown back to Mumbai yesterday on an Indigo flight. However, if aviation sources are to be believed, the government had initially planned to bring the body back by private charter and had, in fact, already kept a plane waiting at Nagpur airport, only to change the plans at the last minute.
VT-DAV nine-seater. File pic
Top officials at the Nagpur airport claimed that the private charter had been booked by the government with the intent of flying back with a body. “The charter was supposed to fly back with a body. Before it took off from Mumbai, five of its seats were removed to clear space for the stretcher,” an official added.
Sources said this plane seen resting at Mumbai Airport had been booked to bring Yakub’s body to Mumbai, but it returned empty
Sources also claimed that that the government would pay the operator, Deccan Aviation, for the flying charges (approximately R3.5 lakh), even though the plane came back empty. A pilot close to the development told mid-day, “The nine-seater had not only been sent to fly Yakub’s body back, but it was funded by the state government.”
Mumbai Airport sources said the VT-DAV aircraft took off for Nagpur at 5.30 am last morning, half an hour after the Supreme Court confirmed that Yakub would be hanged that day. Once at the Nagpur airport, however, the charter was held back till 10.45 am and was finally told to fly back with no body.
“The charter was first supposed to depart at 8.30 am, but was then asked to wait till 9.30 am. It was only at 10.45 am that officials asked the flight operator to fly back to Mumbai empty,” said a senior official from Nagpur airport. Incidentally, the Indigo flight 6E 544 that carried Yakub’s body to Mumbai, took off from Nagpur airport around the same time, at 10.50 am.
This flight was originally supposed to depart at 10.30 am, but was delayed by 20 minutes. A Mumbai official said, “The question is, why was the plane asked to fly back empty, that too around the time when it was decided to fly Yakub’s body by the Indigo airline?” Despite repeated attempts to contact him, CM Devendra Fadnavis remained unavailable for comment. P S Meena, additional chief secretary for general administration (Civil Aviation) said, “I am not aware about this and will have to find out.”
The Indigo flight returning with Yakub’s remains touched down in the city around noon. Memon’s brothers and the body were made to exit the airport premises from gate number 8, which opens to the Kalina side.
The body was carried out in a black hearse around 1 pm. Apart from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and local police, the city side of the airport saw an additional deployment of around 150 police and CISF men.
Sources also confirmed the presence of Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials. All of them were posted throughout the domestic terminal of the airport, especially at check posts near the Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower, the arrivals section and gates 1 and 8 of the terminal.
No passenger was allowed to loiter on the premises. “The security of the city side of the terminal was augmented from Wednesday itself, but the major focus was on Thursday morning,” said a security official at the airport.