Four airlines have banned stand up comedian Kunal Kamra for allegedly heckling television anchor Arnab Goswami, during a flight from Mumbai to Lucknow, on an Indigo flight on Tuesday.
While “IndiGo” banned Kamra for six months, Air India and private airlines- SpiceJet and “GoAir” imposed an indefinite a ban till further notice on him. While an official at ”Vistara” said that they would wait for a written directive from the government before taking action, an “AirAsia” spokesperson said, that their internal committee was reviewing the case and a decision would be taken as per due process.
Other airlines took action against Kamra after Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri asked them to follow “IndiGo”. Puri said that he called for a ban as the video evidence was clear and Kamra’s actions posed a safety threat. Under the rules, any allegation of midair misbehaviour by passengers has to be investigated by an internal committee set up by the carrier concerned. Based on the findings, the DGCA places a person on a no-fly list and other airlines follow the suit.
”In this incident, the guy is shooting a video of the person — Arnab. But it can be anyone — and trying to instigate him and even going to the extent of using four letter words. ,” the minister. The person kept quiet in this case, but if the other person got instigated and there was a case of fisticuffs inside the aircraft, it could have become a safety issue” Puri said and added that “In such cases, the airlines hold an inquiry upon the complaint of a pilot-in-command before banning anyone. That is to ensure that the airlines do not ban passengers arbitrarily. This case, however, is totally different, as there is a video proof”.
The Civil Aviation Rule (CAR) on such offences “is explicit,” a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official told IT that “ IndiGo” will have to form a committee and decide on Kamra.”
DGCA in a statement said “The action taken by airlines is in complete consonance with Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) section 3, series M part VI on handling of unruly passengers. Now the matter is to be referred to the internal committee as prescribed in para 6.1 of the said CAR. Further as per section 6.4 of the CAR, the internal committee is to give the final decision in 30 days by giving the reason in writing, which shall be binding on the airline concerned. Punishment for different type of unruly behavior is also prescribed in the same CAR and the internal committee has to adhere to the same”.
In turn Kamra maintained that Right to speech is bestowed upon every citizen under article 19 of the Constitution of India. I was not disruptive and I did not endanger the safety of any passenger on board. The only damage I caused was to the “inflate ego” of journalist Arnab Goswami. I haven’t travelled by Spice Jet and Air India in this event”.
Kamra had earlier shared a video on Twitter where he could be heard asking Arnab Goswami: “Viewers today want to know if Arnab is a coward or a nationalist. Arnab, this is for national interest. I am part of the tukde-tukde narrative. You should deflate me. You should take the enemy of the states down. Kamra also allegedly heckled Goswami for his “conflicted” news coverage of PhD student Rohith Vemula, who had committed a suicide on 17 January 2016 in a hostel in Telangana, after University of Hyderabad stopped his monthly stipend due to his extra curricular activities. However, Arnab Goswami chose to remain quiet and did not answer back.
However the captain who flew Kamra and Goswami wrote to IndiGo management asking why the airline didn’t consult him before banning the stand-up comedian. “As captain of 6E5317 Mumbai-Lucknow flight on January 28, I found Kamra’s behaviour unsavoury, but was not qualifying of a level I unruly passenger. We pilots can attest to incidents similar and/or worse in nature, that were not deemed unruly,” he said in his email to the airline’s management.
It may be recalled that Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad from Osmanabad in Maharashtra was banned from flying by IndiGo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways and GoAir Vistara (part of the Federation of Indian Airlines) and Air India, after he assaulted an Air India staffer on March 23, 2017. The ban was later revoked, after he apologised in a letter to the Then Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju.
Raju Vernekar is a Media Professional based in Mumbai and is a regular contributor of Imphal Times. He had served as Chief Reporter at Free Press Journal (1996 – 2015 ). His Activities includes writing for different news papers, script writing/production for TV channels, Films Division. Writing poems in Marathi, Hindi, English, Guiding mass media students and helping people to solve their problems. Raju may be contacted at [email protected]