Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad May Soon Fly Again, Rules May Change: Sources

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Sena lawmaker Ravindra Gaikwad had boasted about hitting an Air India official 25 times with his footwear


New Delhi:  Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, banned by major airlines after he assaulted an Air India duty manager with his slipper on Thursday, may be allowed to fly again soon, with the government considering changes in the same rules that it has defended in parliament, say sources.

Mr Gaikwad, 57, was forced to take a train on Friday from Delhi to Mumbai after being barred by six airlines over his egregious attack on 60-year-old Sukumar Raman during an argument over a business class seat. After thrashing the official and allegedly trying to push him down the stepladder, a remorseless Mr Gaikwad bragged about hitting Mr Raman "25 times with my sandal".

He even refused to apologise, which led to six airlines banning him.

But after declaring that there can be no compromise on safety, the government is considering amending the Civil Aviation Requirement or CAR rules to "balance service and safety requirements", say sources, and restrict the powers of airlines to ban passengers.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had suggested a rethink when she commented that a member "can't take a train every time" to attend parliament.

Ms Mahajan had a 45-minute meeting with Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju and Shiv Sena MPs after a row in the Lok Sabha.

The Sena had admitted in the house that what its lawmaker did was not right, but said a flying ban is excessive. Sena MP Anandrao Adsul held up the example of comedy star Kapil Sharma's drunken brawl on a recent flight from Melbourne to Mumbai, in which he allegedly abused and attacked his co-stars. "Kapil Sharma was not banned. But a person who represents people, and when the session is on, was banned," Mr Adsul said.

The Civil Aviation Minister replied, "Violence can be disaster in civil aviation... airlines are empowered to deny boarding to any passenger whose demeanour is incorrect." While airlines, the minister said, had a good safety record because of this rule, "never in my wildest dreams did I expect that an MP will get caught in such an incident."

The government's 180-degree turn has been linked by many to the concern that Shiv Sena's airline unions may start protests.


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