Stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra, who was banned from flying with IndiGo airlines for six months amid recent controversies, has now sent a legal notice to the airlines demanding a public apology and an amount of Rs 25 lakh for “causing mental pain and agony”, as well as the revocation of the ban.
On Tuesday, IndiGo airlines had suspended the comedian from flying with the airlines for six months following his ‘unacceptable behaviour’ onboard the flight. This came after Kamra had posted a video on social media on Tuesday, which shortly went viral. In the video, it could be heard that the comedian was throwing a series of questions at an anchor of a popular broadcast news media network, Arnab Goswami, inside an IndiGo airlines flight. The comedian was also heard making several comments regarding the anchor’s journalistic ethics.
IndiGo airlines had also tagged the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Union Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri in the Twitter post where it informed of the ban.
@MoCA_GoI @HardeepSPuri In light of the recent incident on board 6E 5317 from Mumbai to Lucknow, we wish to inform that we are suspending Mr. Kunal Kamra from flying with IndiGo for a period of six months, as his conduct onboard was unacceptable behaviour. 1/2
— IndiGo (@IndiGo6E)
Union Minister Hardeep Puri also called Kunal Kamra’s behaviour “offensive” and “designed to provoke and create disturbance inside an aircraft”. It is “unacceptable and endangers the safety of air travellers,” he said. Following the precedent set by Indigo; Air India, SpiceJet, and GoAir airlines, too, had on Wednesday suspended stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra from flying with the airlines until further notice.
However, several critics later pointed out the reported inconsistency in the airline’s actions. It has been highlighted that, according to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) guidelines, the normal procedure regarding any complaint dictates that an internal committee be formed by the airlines within 30 days to probe the complaint. Moreover, the committee’s decision can later be challenged in an appellate body of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and a court. Without following any of these procedures, a direct ban of six months seems somewhat arbitrary, critics have pointed out.
Moreover, DGCA guidelines list three categories of passengers who are prevented from flying. The category which matches Kamra’s alleged actions – “disruptive behaviour” – only carries a three-month ban. The other two which are unlikely to match the comedian’s actions – “physically abusive behaviour” and “endangering aircraft and passengers” – carry six-months and two-years bans respectively.
Moreover, the pilot who was operating the flight has now pitched in his opinions on the matter. The pilot has penned a letter to the airlines expressing his concerns over the airlines taking action ‘without consulting the Pilot-in-Command’.
In the letter that the pilot of the aircraft has now penned to the airlines, he stated that he did not observe any physical contact between the two individuals involved in the controversy. Moreover, he said that he had noticed Kamra was gesticulating to Goswami, who was unresponsive.
“I did not observe any physical contact between the two gentlemen at any point. I made a Passenger Address to the cabin asking the gentleman standing in the passenger aisle near Row 1 to return to his seat,” the pilot expressed in his letter.
The pilot further penned that even though Kamra’s behaviour was unacceptable and verbally abusive, he had complied with the instructions of the flight crew.