FPJ Investigation: Rampant Human Rights Violations At Mumbai Airport

FPJ Investigation: Rampant Human Rights Violations At Mumbai Airport

Customs officers forcing passengers to strip and undergo body scanning without their consent or magistrate orders

Dharmesh ThakkarUpdated: Sunday, March 10, 2024, 12:15 AM IST
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Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA), Mumbai | File photo

Cases of violation of  human rights have been reported from the  Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) with certain  Customs officers forcing passengers to strip and undergo body scanning without  their consent or magistrate orders. The department is already mired in controversies with the CBI registering cases of corruption. There have also been complaints of  extortion.

Extortion and corruption rackets

The FPJ had reported series on the extortion and corruption rackets run at the Mumbai Airport leading to transfers of over 38 customs preventive officers and superintendents last year. 

An FPJ investigation has exposed another racket of body scanner xray machines misused by select handpicked customs officers reporting directly to senior IRS officers bypassing their immediate supervisory Assistant Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners at the airport. 

According to an internal customs vigilance report in possession of the FPJ, an extensive extortion racket is run by a senior officer and his junior. The duo intercept passengers clearing customs green channel just outside the airport chief commissioner office near the arrival hall at CSMIA and force them  to strip for x-ray scanning in violation of human rights and without magistrates' orders. 

"Almost every moderate looking passenger is treated rudely"

“Passengers either given option to sit all day and night as hostage or get body x-ray done to leave the  airport. No case has been booked on the basis of body scanning x-ray but almost every moderate looking passenger is treated rudely,” confirmed a victim passenger on arrival from Abu Dhabi last week.  

A passenger Hema Jai Prakash on Bangkok Mumbai Indigo flight recently  was obstructed by customs officers was given an option to wait for whole night for next working day or undergo x-ray scanning while Kamal Jeshani returning  from Dubai on Indigo flight no 6E-96 was also forced for X-ray.

While nothing was recovered from the forced body scanning and search, another international flyer Abdul Nivas was detected with gold concealed in rectum while body scanning was released after paying Rs 75,000. But the  contraband was not allegedly  kept in the treasury as required under rules.

Pocketing of the gold without giving any receipts

A complaint was filed by advocate Rajita Garg about  the extortion by customs and pocketing of the gold without giving any receipts. 

The airport customs commissioner Manish Mani Tiwari seized the X-ray body scanning machine data, images and footage which confirmed the complaints of extortion and pocketing of gold seized from the passenger but no further action was taken. However, he did not respond to calls from this correspondent.

The Customs department at Mumbai airport has been plagued with rampant cases of digital extortion of passengers by front line officers using Gpay accounts of loaders for collections on the pretext of fake cases of gold smuggling. 

The CBI had registered 13 cases against several officials on the basis of a digital trail of flight tickets and hotel bookings made for top officials paid from Gpay accounts of the accused. CBI probe had led to eight baggage loaders in six months collectively received more than Rs1.2 crore in their bank accounts linked to Gpay and further transferred to freight forwarder and collection agents for cash payments to customs officers. 

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