More airlines ban comedian Kunal Kamra for IndiGo incident
SpiceJet and GoAir announced on Wednesday that they have banned stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra from using their services, a day after he posted a video of him heckling television anchor Arnab Goswami on board a Mumbai-Lucknow IndiGo flight – an incident that prompted the intervention of aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri.
Within hours of the video being posted, IndiGo on Tuesday said he will not be allowed to fly on the airline for six months. State-run carrier Air India followed suit, announcing Kamra would be banned on its fleet “till further notice”.
Puri, who on Tuesday advised other airlines to follow IndiGo’s move, said he felt compelled to sidestep laid down procedures because he wanted “zero tolerance for aberrant behaviour”.
“This was not a normal case. It left me with no choice. It could have led to a scuffle on board and endangered security. It doesn’t matter whether it is Arnab or XYZ; a zero tolerance [policy] will apply universally and will be ideology and politics neutral. The message had to go out that such behaviour is unacceptable,” the minister told HT.
Kamra on Tuesday posted a 1 minute, 52 second video in which he is heard talking to Goswami, in a style that he claimed was mimicking the news anchor’s. Kamra is heard constantly referring to the Republic TV founder as a “coward” and attacks his coverage of the 2015 suicide of Hyderabad Central University student Rohith Vemula. “This is for Rohith Vemula’s mother whose caste you were discussing on your [expletive] show,” the comedian is heard saying, while Goswami is seen sitting and staring at his laptop with earphones plugged in.
Shortly afterwards, IndiGo Airlines announced in a tweet that it will put Karma on a no-fly list for six months. While quoting IndiGo’s tweet, minister Puri wrote: “Offensive behaviour designed to provoke and create disturbance inside an aircraft is absolutely unacceptable and endangers safety of air travellers. We are left with no option but to advise other airlines to impose similar restrictions on the person concerned”.
The move by the four airlines has been criticised as a case of overreach. According to the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) notice published by regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), such cases must be raised through a complaint by the pilot-in-command which is then passed on to a committee. According to the rules, other airlines are not obliged to ban passengers blocked by one carrier.
Such action, which can be classified as a ‘level 1’ offence, can attract a maximum ban of three months only. Kamra can challenge the bans in an appeal to DGCA.
“In this case, the man who has taken the offensive clip, he has himself brought it into the public domain. He is using the four-letter word, there is a threatening tone in that. If the other passenger hadn’t shown restraint, there would have been scuffle on the plane,” said Puri, adding, “after reviewing the clip, I felt that we had to send a strong deterrent message to the people.”
The minister also said that Kamra’s case was not comparable with that of Member of Parliament Pragya Thakur, who held up a flight last month after an altercation with fellow passengers. “That was about seat allocation. She was not being offensive. The other passenger was being offensive. If the passenger had filed a complaint with the DGCA, the aviation body would have examined it.”
Hindustan Times reached out to Indigo, Spicejet and GoAir but they did not comment on their action. However, Air India’s Dhananjay Kumar said that they were going by the air regulator’s CAR and a three member committee will decide final action within 30 days. A person familiar with developments at Vistara said that the airline has decided to wait for a formal notice from DGCA or the civil aviation ministry before taking any action against Kamra.
Kamra did not respond to requests for a comment. In new posts made on Twitter, he defended his actions and said he did not jeopardise passenger safety or disobey flight crew.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi attacked the government as well as Goswami over the issue. “Those who use their “news” cameras as 24x7 tools of propaganda, should show some spine when the camera is turned on them,” he said in a tweet.