As dramatic as a flight being recalled from takeoff to offload Naresh Goyal and his wife, the former Jet Airways chairman's near-departure from the country was a failure of the system to track potential escapees. The businessman, once considered a great success story in setting up the airline in the early “open skies” era of the 1990s, saw Jet run into heavy headwinds of debt and falling business of full-service airlines in the thick of a fight with budget carriers to fill routes in India and on lucrative international routes. The airline had to shut down as it owes over Rs 7,000 crores to PSU banks and has created untold misery by not paying its staff salaries for months together.
It’s clear anyone on a watchlist would have to take permission to go abroad under conditions that the executive or judiciary may impose. The country has had a bad experience in many slipping out after grave financial crimes like Nirav Modi and his uncle, and legal battles being fought to bring them back. It would have been appropriate for the immigration authorities to have spotted his movement when he and his wife had their passports scanned at departure. It is such weaknesses in systems alerts that may have allowed others with big debts to leave. Jet Airways’ future is for the lenders to decide. If there are investors ready to throw good money after bad, there will be nothing like the airline flying again.