Congress's Rahul Gandhi has strongly criticised the move of four airlines to ban comedian Kunal Kamra for heckling a television channel editor on an IndiGo flight on Tuesday.
"The ban imposed on #kunalkamra by 4 airlines is the act of a coward leveraging his influence with the Govt to silence a critic. Those who use their "news" cameras as 24x7 tools of propaganda, should show some spine when the camera is turned on them," his tweet read.
The ban imposed on #kunalkamra by 4 airlines is the act of a coward leveraging his influence with the Govt to silence a critic.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) January 29, 2020
Those who use their "news" cameras as 24x7 tools of propaganda, should show some spine when the camera is turned on them. https://t.co/NNwVcq4ZOj
The airlines rushed to impose a six-month ban on Kunal Kamra after a tweet from Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri.
"Offensive behaviour designed to provoke & 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 minister posted.
Soon after IndiGo, Air India, SpiceJet and GoAir complied, tagging the minister in their tweet announcement.
The haste raised eyebrows in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA. Sources said there is a process to be followed before a six-month ban can be imposed.
The rules require that an internal committee must be formed in such cases within 30 days of receiving a complaint to investigate the matter. It is possible to appeal against its decision in an appellate body of the Civil Aviation Ministry and a court.
In a statement, the DGCA said "the matter is to be referred to the internal committee" that will give a final decision within 30 days, which will be "binding on the airline concerned".
Of the three categories of offences, Mr Kamra's action has been placed in the second, which concerns "physically abusive behaviour".
The minister's description of Mr Kamra's behaviour - "offensive behaviour designed to provoke & create disturbance" - is closer to the first category. Its description is "disruptive behaviour", for which the maximum punishment is a three-month ban.