Comedian Kunal Kamra was recently banned by Indigo for a period of 6 months following an incident involving Arnab Goswami. Here is a low down of the rules governing such incidents.
In the aftermath of an incident onboard an Indigo flight involving Kunal Kamra and Arnab Goswami, IndiGo had announced suspension of Kunal Kamra from flying any of their flights for a period of six months.
India’s Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Hardeep Singh Puri also tweeted in support of IndiGo airlines’ action stating that any such offensive behaviour ought to be dealt with and has advised other airlines as well to take similar action.
The incident and the action by airlines have evoked mixed response from various sections. But, what does the law say about such incidents? Is the action of airlines justified and will such an action stand the scrutiny of law? Here is a detailed explainer.
New rules framed in 2017 provide for a ‘No-Fly’ list of unruly passengers
On 08 September 2017, the Ministry of Civil Aviation unveiled new rules to ‘tackle on-board disruptive and unruly behaviour by passengers’. The then civil aviation minister P.Ashok Gajapathi Raju had stated that these new rules allow for the creation of a national, ‘No-Fly list’ comprising such passengers involved in unruly behaviour.
Accordingly, changes were made to Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) , Section 3, Series M, Part VI which relates to ‘Handling of Unruly Passengers’.
As per Civil Aviation Ministry’s statement, the revision was made according to the provisions laid out in Tokyo Convention 1963 – ‘Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft’.
These provisions are applicable to – Indian operators (Domestic & International), airport operators within Indian territory, all passengers (during the duration of travel within or over India).
Unruly behaviour categorised into 3 levels
Para 4.9 of these rules provide indicative clauses under which behaviour of the passengers can be considered as unruly.
Any such cases of unruly behaviour by the passengers are categorised under three levels, as specified in Para 4.10 of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) , Section 3, Series M, Part VI.
Internal Committee to be constituted by the airline for reviewing the complaint
Airlines are required to have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which provides specifics about the role of their staff in dealing with unruly passengers at the airport as well as on-board an aircraft. In the case of unruly behaviour by a passenger, the pilot in command is required to assess the situation to check if the cabin crew can control and pacify the situation. In case this is not feasible, the Pilot in command can relay the information to the airline on ground central control.
In other words, the interim ban on the passenger cannot exceed 30 days while the matter is pending with the internal committee for a decision.
Duration of the Ban
Para 8.1 provides the duration of the ban that can be imposed on the passenger based on the level of unruly behaviour as determined by the internal committee. The names of such passengers will be included in the ‘No-Fly’ list.
Furthermore, passengers can also be covered under the specifications provided in Para 7, which is related to national security. Individuals deemed to be national security threat are barred from flying. Such a list is provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). It has to be noted these names will not be part of the published ‘No-Fly’ list and hence will not be public.
‘No-Fly’ list – a database of unruly passengers
The details of passengers who are deemed to be guilty of unruly behaviour by the Airlines internal committee need to be notified to DGCA as well as other airlines.
Such passengers would be part of a ‘No-Fly’ list that is maintained by the DGCA. As per Para 6.5, the following details of the person needs to be updated in the ‘No-Fly’ list
Other airlines can also ban the passengers on the ‘No-Fly’ list for a period mentioned above based on the level of offence. In case of any subsequent offence, the person would be banned for twice the period.
Before Kunal Kamra, only one passenger is on the ‘No-Fly’ list
As per the available data, the name of only one passenger is on the ‘No-Fly’ list. Responding to a question in Lok Sabha in July 2018, the government stated that only one person has been named in the ‘No-Fly’ list, and this was done by Jet Airways.
As per various news reports, Mumbai based businessman Birju Kishore Salla who created a Hi-jack situation aboard a Jet Airways flight is the first to be named on the list.
The banned person can appeal against the decision
Any person who is included in the ‘No-Fly’ list has to be informed by the concerned airline regarding the duration of the ban along with the reason. Such a person has the option to appeal, which needs to be done within 60 days of the issue of the ban order.
The appeal can be made to an Appellate Committee which is constituted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The committee consists of the following individuals.
- Chairman-Retired Judge of High Court.
- Member-Representative from a passengers association/consumer association/retired officer of Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum.
- Member-Representative of the airlines of the rank not below the rank of Vice President.
The decision made by the Appellate Committee is final and any further appeal can be made in a high court.
Has IndiGo complied with these rules in banning Kunal Kamra?
Within a few hours of the incident’s video being shared on social media, IndiGo announced 6 months ban on Kunal Kamra via twitter. Multiple questions about Indigo’s compliance with the above-mentioned rules remain unanswered.
- Did the pilot of the flight file a complaint to initiate the process?
- Was this complaint referred to an internal committee?
- Did the internal committee review the complaint and recommended the 6-month ban?
As per the guidelines, only an internal committee can recommend a ban up to 6 months based on the level of offence. In the meantime, the airline can only ban an individual for a maximum period of 30 days. However, Indigo announced a ban of 6 months which prima facie appears to be in violation of the rules.
Furthermore, the incident seems to be a case of level -1 category i.e. Verbal harassment and entails a ban of up to 3 months only. But Indigo announced a 6-month ban which is reserved a level-2 offence.
While there are these questions around the action taken by IndiGo, there are also questions around the ban announced by other airlines.
In a story by Huff Post India, the Director-General of DGCA reportedly stated that the ban is in clear violation of rules. However, DGCA countered this version and issued a clarification stating that he has been misquoted.
The clarification issued by DGCA however, does not specify, which facts stated by DGCA have been misquoted by HuffPost. Although the clarification states that the matter is to be referred to the internal committee who would need to give the final decision in 30 days, it states that the action taken by the airlines is in ‘complete consonance’ with CAR. This doesn’t seem to be the case if one goes by the rules.
There are also reports that the pilot of the aircraft where this incident took place has expressed his dissatisfaction and said that the behaviour doesn’t deserve a ban. In another development, Kunal Kamra tweeted that he sent a legal notice to Indigo against the travel ban and also demanded compensation. The outcome of these developments will only be clear in the days to come.
Factly tried contacting DGCA & the Ministry of Civil Aviation for clarification. The story will be updated when there is a response.