National carrier Air India has refuted the allegations of “misbehaviour and demand for bribes” by its employees as alleged by shooter Manu Bhaker.

In a statement, the airlines claimed that “rightful documents” were asked for from Bhaker when she was boarding its flight along with her mother for Bhopal from Delhi on February 19, contrary to the allegations made by her against the airline.

Bhaker had sought action against two employees of the airline for alleged “harassment” and “insulting” her.

The statement reads as follows:

This pertains to Ms Manu Bhaker’s recent flight with us on 19th Feb 2021. Ms Manu Bhaker was travelling with her mother Ms Sumedha Bhaker by flight AI 437 on 19th February 2021 from Delhi to Bhopal departing at 1945 hrs.

During check-in at the Delhi airport counter, Ms Manu told our check-in employees that she was carrying an Air Pistol and a 0.22 Bore Gun. She was advised by our counter personnel to get the documents, mandatory to carry arms & ammunition, verified by Air India Security officials.

After verification of documents shown by Ms Bhaker, the Security Officials informed her that the document required for exemption of payment of handling charge for carriage of arms, as per laid down norms, is not there and, as such, fixed charges for the carriage of arms would have to be paid.

It was explained to Ms Bhaker that the document for exemption shown by her was not valid as it was signed only by the Assistant Secretary of the National Rifle Association, whereas, as per rules – details of which are available on the Air India website – signature of only the Secretary or President of a bonafide association is recognised for waiverof the charges.

Subsequently, the applicable charges – that is Rs 5000 plus 5 % GST, for two – a total Rs 10,200 – was conveyed to Ms Bhaker. Ms Bhaker requested for 10-15 minutes from our personnel to procure the required documentfor waiver of charges for carriage of her arms on board.

The moment she furnished the required document to the Air India check-in and security personnel, her baggage, including the arms were accepted for carriage.

It may be noted that though the DGCA permit allowed her carriage of arms from 20th February, in view ofthe Rifle Association certificate with bonafide signature, Air India had extended courtesy to have her onboard with the arms on 19th February itself. Subsequently, Ms Bhaker with her mother proceeded for their security check and were facilitated to board the aircraft.

Our employee Mr Manoj Gupta was at the counter throughout and had, at no point, communicated directly with Ms Bhaker. This is also corroborated by the CCTV footage. Hence, the allegation of misbehaviour by him simply does not arise. The CCTV footage also nullifies the passenger’s allegation of bribes being asked forand snatching of mobile phone.

Air India, as a responsible airline, always adheres to the rules and regulations governing operations. In this case also, Air India was only following the protocol regarding such a sensitive activity like the carriage of arms on board.

Air India has zero tolerance for any kind of misdemeanor or arbitrary demand from its employees, like the ones alleged by Ms Bhaker. Only the legitimate documents were asked for, contrary to the allegations made.

Air India has always encouraged and has the highest respect for Sports and Sportspersons and have many eminent sports legends who have done Air India and India proud over decades.