NEW DELHI: Aviation regulator, Mr E K Bharat Bhushan was on Tuesday abruptly removed from his key position in the backdrop of his tough stance against debt-ridden Kingfisher Airlines over its failure to pay salaries to its employees.
In a swift move by the Civil Aviation Ministry, Mr Bhushan, who has been the Director General of Civil Aviation for nearly two years, was replaced by Mr Prashant Narain Sukul, a Joint Secretary in the Ministry who would be holding the position as an additional charge, official sources said.
Only about a week ago, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet had approved the extension of additional charge of the DGCA post to Mr Bhushan for another year “with effect from 01.12.2011 or till the appointment of a regular incumbent, whichever is earlier.”
Mr Bhushan, an IAS officer of the 1979 batch from Kerala cadre who took over from Mr Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi in December 2010 as DGCA chief, will now continue to serve as Additional Secretary in the Ministry, the sources said.
While there was no official word on the reasons for his removal as DGCA by the Civil Aviation ministry, there has been speculation that his stern warnings to Kingfisher and Air India to pay dues to their employees may have gone against him.
As the chief of India’s aviation regulatory body, Bhushan had brought in stringent measures to prevent airlines from compromising on safety on account of their financial trouble.
He had bluntly told both the loss-making carriers to pay up employees’ dues soon enough so that their performance was not affected. Both the airlines have faulted on timely payment of salaries and allowances for several months.
He had said that safety could be adversely affected by a demotivated staff, particularly a pilot, an engineer or a cabin crew, if they were not paid their dues on time.
During his 20-month tenure as the head of the aviation regulatory body, 57-year-old Bhushan handled a series of major cases of flouting of aviation rules, including the fake pilots scam and fudging of records by flying schools.