CHANDIGARH — Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Wednesday that IndiGo had acted outside of India’s civil aviation regulations by imposing a six-month flight ban on Kunal Kamra, but justified the decision anyway, saying that the comedian had endangered the lives of people by heckling a passenger onboard the flight.
On Wednesday, IndiGo said it was suspending Kamra from its flights for six months for heckling Arnab Goswami, editor of Republic TV, known for its pro-government editorial stance. State-owned carrier Air India quickly followed suit with an indefinite ban pending inquiry while privately owned SpiceJet and GoAir announced similar bans after Puri tweeted an “advisory” to other airlines.
“There are laid-down procedures to ensure the safety and security of people travelling onboard,” Puri told HuffPost India. “But this incident called for a quick action and that is what the airlines did by putting him in the No-Fly list. If found guilty in the internal committee, the concerned airlines could put a permanent ban on him.”
The “laid-down procedures”, however, contradict Minister Puri’s position.
Under the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR Section 3, Series M, Part Vl on “Handling of Unruly Passengers”) rules, revised in 2017, IndiGo can ban Kamra for 30 days pending an inquiry, which must be presided over by a retired judge, before taking a decision on the length of his ban.
Under the rules, Kamra appears to have committed, at best, a Level 1 violation of verbal harassment that carries a ban of 3 months.
“This man had posted a video where he was seen taunting, provoking and using abusive language against a fellow passenger. His voice had a threatening tone. The airlines acted quickly so that no such altercation takes place in future,” Puri told HuffPost India.
“Had the other passenger reacted to Kamra’s provocation, things could have turned awful there. The passengers should refrain from displaying any such provocative behaviour onboard,” Puri said.
Kamra’s flight ban has quickly escalated into a political slugfest, with many questioning Puri’s Twitter directions to private corporations.
Earlier, DGCA chief Arun Kumar told HuffPost India that the bans imposed by the airlines violated the CAR rules. But later, DGCA walked back from the statement, claiming that they were in “complete consonance” of the CAR.