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SpiceJet, GoAir ban Kamra; AirAsia Vistara say 'reviewing' matter

Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Roshneesh Kmaneck
Last updated on: January 29, 2020 22:13 IST
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Two more airlines on Wednesday suspended stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra from flying with them "till further notice" for allegedly heckling journalist Arnab Goswami aboard an IndiGo plane with aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation saying the action by the four carriers is in complete consonance with its regulations. 

IMAGE: The comedian accosted Arnab Goswami on a flight and made a video of it. Photograph: Kunal Kamra/Facebook

On Tuesday, IndiGo suspended Kamra from flying with it for six months while Air India banned him until further notice.

SpiceJet and GoAir on Wednesday also suspended him from flying with them "till further notice".

On the other hand, AirAsia India spokesperson said that the airline's internal committee is reviewing the matter and will take action according to due process.

 

Vistara had given a similar statement on Tuesday, stating that it will "review and follow due process in such cases".

The DGCA, meanwhile, said action of the four airlines, who have banned Kamra, is in complete consonance with its regulations.

However, it is not clear under which DGCA regulation has IndiGo banned Kamra for six months.

"This is to reiterate that the action taken by the airlines is in complete consonance with Civil Aviation Requirements Section-3, Series M Part VI on Handling of unruly passengers," a DGCA statement said.

"Now the matter is to be referred to the internal committee as prescribed in para 6.1 of the said CAR. Further, as per para 6.4 of the CAR, the internal committee is to give the final decision in 30 days by giving the reasons in writing, which shall be binding on the airline concerned. Punishment for different type of unruly behaviour is also prescribed in the same CAR and the internal committee has to adhere to the same," it added.

According to 2017 rules of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for "handling of unruly or disruptive passengers", if a passenger carries a verbal assault, he or she can be banned by the airline till the time its internal committee - which must be headed by a retired district & sessions judge - takes a decision on the matter.

The rules clearly state that in case of a verbal assault, the internal committee cannot impose a ban of not more than three months.

After IndiGo announced its decision, aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that he had taken note of the incident and "advised" other airlines to impose similar restrictions on Kamra, adding "offensive behaviour designed to provoke and create disturbance inside an aircraft is absolutely unacceptable & endangers safety of air travellers".

Kamra allegedly heckled Goswami, the editor of Republic TV, on IndiGo's Mumbai-Lucknow (6E5317) flight on Tuesday.

In a video clip posted by Kamra on his Twitter handle, he is seen asking Goswami if he is a "coward or a journalist".

While Goswami can be seen sitting in the plane and watching something on his laptop with his earphones plugged in, Kamra is heard telling him, "Viewers want to know if Arnab today 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. You should make sure that the country is in safe hands of Narendra Modi."

Unfazed by his suspension by airlines, Kamra on Wednesday claimed that he once again approached Goswami, who he said was his co-passenger on a flight from Lucknow, for an "honest discussion" but was turned away.

It is not clear on which airline's flight Kamra and Goswami were returning to Mumbai from Lucknow on Wednesday.

Congress leaders criticised the airlines for banning Kamra.

"Wish @IndiGo6E concentrated more on addressing mid air engine shutdowns, engine vibrations, loss of cabin pressure, suspected oil leak, stalled engine, cargo smoke indication, engine damage reports compromising passenger safety then acting at the behest of powers that are!" Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Soorjewala said on Twitter.

Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor also weighed in on the video and said, "The truth is that it was time someone gave him (Goswami) a taste of his own medicine".

"These are the words he regularly uses to berate his innocent victims, except he does so in a hectoring, bullying manner & at higher volume & pitch than Kunal Kamra does in this video," Tharoor tweeted.

When a Twitter user alleged that Tharoor was endorsing public heckling and forced debates, he responded by saying, "On the contrary: I deplore & condemn what was done to me & therefore approve of teaching the incorrigible what it feels like to be treated that way."

"His (Goswami's) goons, armed with cameras and mics as their weapons, have done exactly the same thing to me, in almost exactly the same words, on two separate flights until asked to desist by air crew," Tharoor alleged.

In 2017, Diwakar Reddy, who was then a Telugu Desam Party MP from Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh, was banned from flying by all six major airlines after his unruly behaviour with an IndiGo staffer at Vishakhapatnam airport. The ban was lifted within a month.

In the same year, Ravindra Gaikwad, the then Shiv Sena MP from Osmanabad in Maharashtra, was banned from flying by all major airlines after he slapped an Air India ground staff at Pune airport. The ban was lifted by airlines within 14 days.

Bharatiya Janata Party MP Pragya Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blasts, was also involved in an incident on a SpiceJet plane last December.

SpiceJet had stated that Thakur was asked by the crew on its Delhi-Bhopal flight -- which she was taking on December 21 -- to move to a non-emergency row seat as she was on a wheelchair but she refused, causing the flight to delay.

While some restless passengers requested Thakur to change her seat from the emergency row, which is not allocated to passengers on wheelchairs, to a non-emergency row, others requested the crew to offload her as she was refusing to change the seat, according to SpiceJet.

However, Thakur was not banned by SpiceJet or any other airline from flying in their flights.

Kamra on Wednesday said he just wanted to express solidarity with PhD scholar Rohith Vemula and at no point he was "unruly or disruptive".

Vemula, a scholar at the University of Hyderabad, committed suicide in January 2016 allegedly due to caste discrimination on the campus.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Roshneesh Kmaneck© Copyright 2020 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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