Low-flying chopper pilot, French photographer held at Kumbh

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 12, 2013 13:10 hrs

Allahabad, Feb 12 (IANS) Cases were slapped on a helicopter pilot, flying a French photo-journalist, who had hovered dangerously low over the pilgrims at the Kumbh Mela here, police officials said Tuesday. The two have been detained and are being questioned.

The case was filed against private chopper pilot and the French media person for criminal negligence and breaching the Official Secrets Act on their flight on Mauni Amavasya (Sunday) "dangerously close" to the people on the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.

In a bid to capture close shots of the people bathing in the river, the pilot was reportedly forced by the French cameraman to fly so low that the turbulence caused by the rotors of the helicopter turned upside down some boats of the 'Jal Police' (river police) deployed at the spot, an official told IANS.

Confirming the incident, Allahabad's Inspector General of Police Alok Sharma said a case under sections 336/337 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and 3/7 of the Official Secrets Act was lodged against the pilot at the Sangam police station. The case was lodged under instructions from Divisional Commissioner Devesh Chaturvedi.

"I was told by some local media persons covering the bathing on Mauni Amavasya that a chopper was flying at a very low height and caused panic among the people present on the ghats," Chaturvedi said.

Messages were sent to police and aviation officials concerned to ground the chopper immediately.

Detained by the local police, the two have refused to speak to the police and the French journalist has reportedly sought a lawyer. His camera and other equipment have been confiscated and his papers "were being screened" to check his antecedents, Kumbh Mela media spokesman Ashok Sharma told IANS.

Over 30 million people took a holy dip Sunday on Mauni Amavasya. On way back to their homes, a stampede left 36 pilgrims dead at the Allahabad railway station.

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