SC refuses PIL seeking court-monitored probe into aircraft crashes of Indian armed forces

New Delhi | The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a PIL seeking a court-monitored investigation into incidents of fighter plane crashes including the recent crash of Mirage-2000 trainer aircraft near Bengaluru in which two Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots were killed.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said there cannot be a judicial inquiry into such mishappenings. “The Supreme Court cannot undertake a judicial enquiry into mishappenings involving fighter jets,” the bench said.

“From which generation, this Mirage aircraft belongs,” the bench asked petitioner lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava. As the lawyer couldn’t respond, the apex court said, “The Mirage aircraft belongs to 3.5th generation of fighter jets” and added, “You don’t know the factual things, but you need judicial enquiry”.

The bench then dismissed the PIL saying, “We are not inclined to entertain this petition”. The petition had sought direction to the Centre to take steps to ensure that such aircraft crashes do not occur in the future.

The PIL was filed after Mirage-2000 trainer aircraft had crashed on February 1 at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Airport in Bengaluru, killing both pilots — Squadron Leader Samir Abrol and Squadron Leader Siddhartha Negi, both from Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment.

The PIL had sought setting up of a court-monitored committee comprising a retired judge of the apex court and experts from Indian defence services to conduct a thorough enquiry into the Mirage crash. It had said that the committee should fix responsibility of erring government officials and others for the lapses leading to such incidents and also to suggest measures to ensure that it does not occur again in future.

The petitioner had referred to a recent media report which said that IAF have lost over 35 aircraft and helicopters in crashes since 2015-16 in which 45 lives have been lost. Since 2011, the Indian Air Force, the Army and the Navy have recorded accidents of over 75 aircraft and helicopters in which over 80 persons have died, the plea had said referring to the report.

The bereaved family of Abrol had said that while the bureaucracy enjoys its “corrupt cheese and wine”, the air warriors are given “outdated machines” to fight. An emotional poem penned by Abrol’s brother Sushant, posted on Facebook, had stated that it was an “unforgiving” job to be a test pilot given the risks it posses.

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