Banning Kunal Kamra arbitrary? Here’s what rules say

The Kunal Kamra and Arnab Goswami face-off on an Indigo flight resulted in four airlines banning Kunal from flying. But this decision by the airlines raises many questions on their functioning

Photo courtesy- social media
Photo courtesy- social media

Zaheeb Ajmal

The Kunal Kamra and Arnab Goswami face-off on an Indigo flight on Tuesday resulted in aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri condemning Kunal Kamra’s ‘unruly’ behaviour and subsequently four airlines banned Kunal from flying. But this decision by the airlines raises many questions on their functioning.

On Tuesday, Kamra while travelling on a Mumbai-Lucknow IndiGo flight, confronted Arnab Goswami. He asked him questions over news presentation style.

Later, Kamra posted a statement on his Twitter handle which read, "Today I met Arnab Goswami in a flight to Lucknow, and politely asked him to have a conversation. At first, he pretended to be on a phone call. I waited for his so-called phone call to get over. Seatbelt signs were off at this time. I gave him a monologue about what I felt about his 'Journalism'. He refused to answer any questions, he called me 'mentally unstable'."

Kunal Kamra’s tweet with the video of Arnab Goswami and his ‘Arnab bashing’ soon became viral on social media which perhaps prompted civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri to condemn Kunal Kamra’s censure of Arnab Goswami.

Following this, three airlines, SpiceJet, Indigo and Air India banned Kunal Kamra from flying. While IndiGo suspended Kamra from flying with it for a period of six months, Air India and Spicejet banned him until further notice.

Reacting to the incident, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said, "Offensive behaviour designed to provoke and create disturbance inside an aircraft is absolutely unacceptable and endangers the safety of air travellers. We are left with no option but to advise other airlines to impose similar restrictions on the person concerned."

But can the airlines immediately take such decisions? What do the rules say?

The airline first needs to set up an internal committee headed by a retired district or sessions judge to examine any such case. This committee must conduct a detailed investigation and decide whether the offence was Level 1, 2, or 3.

Also, after reaching a decision, the airline has to give the person in question a time period of 60 days to appeal to an internal appellate committee which the airline needs to constitute.

According to Civil Aviation Rules, "unruly behaviour" (without physical violence) is a Level 1 offence. Level 1 offences get a ban of 3 months. A 6-month ban is ONLY for incidents of physical violence.

Activist Saket Gokhale has shared the screenshots of the Civil Aviation rules. He also filed a Right to Information petition asking for documents and Air India rules with regard to the incident.

“Filed an RTI with Air India asking for documents related to the arbitrary ban imposed on Kunal Kamra by the airline without following due process. Also gathering info from Civil Aviation Ministry on the bizarre role of Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in this entire episode,” tweeted Gokhale.

In 2016, JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar alleged that a co-passenger tried to “strangle" him inside an aircraft before the flight from Mumbai to Pune took off.

Kanhaiya was subsequently offloaded from the plane by the airline staff on safety ground, forcing him to take road route to Pune to attend an event there.

In December 2019, a viral video showed the BJP MP Pragya Thakur constantly refusing to change her seat despite repeated requests. This incident led to the flight being delayed for 45 minutes.

The airlines later clarified that Thakur was asked by the crew on Delhi-Bhopal flight to move to a non-emergency row seat as she was on a wheelchair but she refused, causing the flight to delay.

While passengers requested Bhopal MP to change her seat from emergency row to non-emergency row, a few others requested the crew to offload her as she was refusing to change the seat, according to the airline's spokesperson.

No steps were taken by the concerned airlines in both cases. In the light of these incidents, here are few pertinent questions that need to be answered:

  • Did Arnab Goswami file any written complaint against Kunal Kamra?
  • Was the due process followed in regard to the Kunal Kamra incident? If so, it must be elaborated in the public domain.
  • According to the rules, the alleged offence by Kunal Kamra can get a ban of 3 months, The six month ban is for physical violence. Why was he banned for 6 months by Indigo, and indefinitely by Air india and Go Air?
  • What action was taken in the incidents involving Kanhaiya Kumar and Pragya Thakur?

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines

Published: 29 Jan 2020, 3:24 PM