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Four airlines ban comedian Kunal Kamra — here’s a look at the legality of the move

IndiGo has banned Kunal Kamra for heckling Arnab Goswami after which 3 more airlines — Air India, SpiceJet and GoAir — followed suit.

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New Delhi: Comedian Kunal Kamra has been banned by four airlines after his confrontation with Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami aboard an Indigo flight.

Kamra had posted a video on Twitter Tuesday where he is seen questioning Goswami on his “journalism” and political views. Following this, Indigo released a statement that said it was banning Kamra for six months due to his “unacceptable behaviour” and also advised passengers “to refrain from indulging in personal slander whilst onboard”.

Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri also called his behavior “offensive” and urged other airlines to impose similar restrictions on Kamra. Acting on his advice, indefinite bans by three other airlines — AirIndia, SpiceJet and GoAir — followed.

ThePrint takes a look at the procedure to put a passenger in the no-fly list and if other airlines can actually ban passengers.

What is unruly behaviour?

On 8 September 2017, the Ministry of Civil Aviation unveiled revised rules to tackle disruptive and unruly behaviour by passengers onboard.

These rules identify three levels of unruly behaviour.

A Level 1 breach is the use of threatening or abusive language towards a crew member or another passenger. This includes physical gestures and verbal harassment. According to the rules, the punishment for this level of misconduct is a ban of up to three months.

A Level 2 breach is behaving in a physically threatening, abusive and disorderly manner towards a crew member or another passenger. This includes pushing, kicking, hitting, grabbing or inappropriate touching, sexual harassment etc. The punishment for this is a ban of six months.

A Level 3 breach includes any “life threatening behaviour”, such as damage to the aircraft, operating systems, physical violence such as choking, eye gouging, murderous assault, etc. This breach can lead to a ban of two years or more.

What is the procedure for banning passengers?

According to the rules, the pilot-in-command is required to file a complaint of unruly behaviour with the airline’s central control on the ground.

The airline will then set up an internal committee, comprising a retired district and sessions judge as the chairman, a representative from a different scheduled airline as member and a representative from a passengers association or consumer association or a retired officer of the consumer dispute redressal forum.

This committee needs to decide the matter within 30 days, including identifying the level of breach committed. During this time the concerned flight can temporarily ban the passenger from flying. However, the temporary ban cannot be for more than 30 days.

In Kamra’s case, according to a clarification issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the matter is yet to be referred to the internal committee.

Can other airlines ban passengers?

The rules require the airlines to maintain a database of all unruly passengers, and inform the DGCA as well as other airlines. This, it says, shall form the ‘No-Fly List’.

However, this database needs to be made after the internal committee’s decision.

It is only after the internal committee announces its final decision and puts the individual concerned on the no-fly list that the rules allow other airlines to ban them, based on the level of breach committed.

Can this decision be appealed?

The decision to ban a passenger needs to be communicated to the individual concerned, along with the reasons and duration of the ban.

The passenger can then challenge the order before an appellate committee, within 60 days, constituted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, comprising a retired judge of a high court as the chairman, a representative of a passengers association or a consumer association or a retired officer of the consumer dispute redressal forum, and a representative of the airlines not lower than the rank of Vice-President or its equivalent.

The appellate committee’s decision can be appealed in a high court.

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  1. As a lifelong diplomat, conversant with the deepest nuances of law and the rule of law, it would have been appropriate for honourable minister not to have got up in what appear to be legally untenable proceedings.

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