Thursday, January 30, 2020

Can All Indian Airlines Really Ban Kunal Kamra? Here is What the Law Says

Comedian Kunal Kamra who is known for his anti-Bharatiya Janata Party government jibes and antics, has just made it extremely difficult for himself to fly across the country on domestic airlines after he heckled journalist Arnab Goswami onboard an IndiGo flight.

Following a video of the incident that went viral on social media, IndiGo and Air India announced six-month bans on Kamra. On January 29, two more airlines, Spice Jet and Go Air also decided to ban the comedian.

But are airlines within their legal right to do that? Turns out, they are.

The 'No Fly' List

In 2017, the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation introduced the 'National No fly List' in an effort to curb and punish unruly behaviour on airplanes. The no fly list is meant "to ensure safety and check unruly and disruptive behaviour on aircraft". It is compiled by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on the basis of inputs provided by airlines.

According to the rules, any airline can report unruly behaviour onboard the aircraft. However, the complaint has to be filed by the pilot of the plane. an internal committee has to then be set up for each case by the airline which can in turn probe the incident and allegations. The committee has to furnish its report within 30 days.

While the ban in initiated by the airline that raised the complaint, other airlines can also choose to follow suit. However, they are not compelled to do so.

In case of a ban, a passenger can contest it and make an appeal but only after 60 days of the committee's decision.

What can get you blacklisted?

There are three wide categories of "unruly behaviour" that can get one on the no-fly list. These include verbal unruliness, misbehavior or harassment that is punishable by a three-month ban (Level 1), physical unruliness punishable by a six month ban (Level 2) and life-endangering unruliness or behaviour which is punishable by a two-year flying ban (Level 3)

What happens to Kamra now?

As per laws, IndiGo as well as other airlines are within their legal right to suspend Kamra's or any other passenger's flying rights in case they violate any of the offences under the 'No Fly List' rules.

So far, four domestic airlines have suspended Kamra's flying rights, Vistara has as yet not made a comment on the issue.

As per rules, IndiGo would now have to institute a special committee to prove the incident and then deliver a verdict on whether Kamra will be allowed to fly or not.

Kamra, on the other hand, has maintained his position and said in a statement that he only asked the journalist when a few polite questions and when the latter refused to answer, he started a monologue to raise his complaints. Kamra also added that he did not regret the incident and would not apologise to Goswami as he was within his right to exercise freedom of speech in doing so.

The comedian said that he approached Goswami twice when the seat-belt signs were turned off and that he went back to his seat within seconds of a stewardess asking him to move.

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