After Gaikwad fiasco, Centre drafts rules for unruly fliers

Aparna Parekh
New Delhi: Ravindra Gaikwad (C) with Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut (L) and party MPs after a  press conference at Parliament in New Delhi on Thursday after he apologized in the Lok Sabha for his recent assault on an Air India employee. PTI Photo

New Delhi: Ravindra Gaikwad (C) with Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut (L) and party MPs after a press conference at Parliament in New Delhi on Thursday after he apologized in the Lok Sabha for his recent assault on an Air India employee. PTI Photo

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has released a set of draft rules for a national no-fly list for unruly passengers travelling by domestic airlines. The government’s move comes after Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad allegedly assaulted an Air India staff.

The rules, as proposed by the ministry, call for a flying ban for unruly passengers. Reports say three categories of unruly behaviour have been identified, which call for a flying ban of 3 months, 6 months or even two years or more.

The proposed rules call for a “national no-fly list” which will comprise passengers identified as unruly after an inquiry by a committee constituted by that particular airline.

“There is no other country in the world with a no-fly list based on safety. There are no-fly lists based on security where people are seen as grave threats and they are not allowed to fly. India is blazing a new trail in this regard,” Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said at a media briefing.

The first level of misdemeanour includes disruptive behaviour such as physical gestures, verbal harassment and unruly behaviour because of inebriation. This level of offence will carry a flying ban of three months.

The second level comprises physically abusive behaviour such as pushing, hitting, grabbing, inappropriate touching or sexual harassment. This degree of misconduct will carry a ban of six months.

The third category consists of life threatening behaviour such as damage to aircraft operating system, physical violence such as choking or murderous assault and attempted breach of flight crew compartment. This will carry a flying ban of two years or more without limit.

If a passenger repeats the same degree of offence he/she will be banned for twice the period of the previous ban.

Sena MP Gaikwad was slapped with a flying for two weeks when no domestic airline let him on board. Gaikwad was accused of repeatedly beating an Air India staff over being unable to travel business class despite having insisted on boarding an all-economy flight.

Gaikwad’s flying ban which was revoked after two weeks, became a major bone of contention between allies BJP and Shiv Sena. The issue was raised in the Parliament as well.

The flying ban on Gaikwad was lifted only after a written order from the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The 56-year-old MP from Osmanabad had written a letter to Minister for Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju expressing his “regrets” over the “unfortunate incident” on March 23.

“I write to convey my regrets for the unfortunate incident that took place on 23rd March, 2017 in the Air India Flight No. AI-852 seat No.1F,” Gaikwad had said in the letter. Gaikwad had written a letter a day after his statement in Parliament.

Gaikwad in his statement in Lok Sabha, had denied assaulting any airline staff. In fact he alleged that he was misbehaved with and only retaliated when provoked. He also sought action against Air India officials, especially the airline’s CMD.

However, he did tender an apology to Parliament but insisted he owed no apology to the airline officials.

Lok Sabha witnessed unruly scenes when Shiv Sena members, including Anant Geete created ruckus demanding that BJP MPs revoke the ban on Gaikwad. The protesting Sena MPs even surrounded the Civil Aviation Minister, refusing to accept his clarification that law will take its own course in the matter.

Several BJP minsters were even seen placating Anant Geete and Home Minister Rajnath Singh also assured him that an amicable solution will be reached after all stakeholders hold talks.

Sena had also resorted to arm-twisting tactics on the matter. The party had threatened to disrupt flight operations at Mumbai and Pune airports. It had also declared it would not attend a crucial NDA meeting if the ban was not lifted soon.