The IndiGo pilot who flew Kunal Kamra has written to the airline's management asking why was he not consulted before a ban was placed on the comedian for heckling a senior TV Editor on an IndiGo flight on Tuesday. "I was disheartened to learn that my Airline has taken action in this case solely on the basis of Social Media posts, with no consultation whatsoever with the Pilot-in-Command. This is somewhat unprecedented in my nine years of Airline flying," reads the letter by the Captain to the IndiGo management.
The Captain said Kunal Kamra's behaviour, "while unsavoury, was not qualifying of a level 1 unruly passenger" and that he did not find the events reportable in any way.
"Pilots can attest to incidents which were similar and/or worse in nature that were not deemed unruly," he added.
The pilot has sought a clarification from IndiGo saying, "Am I to understand that the bar for interpretation of a disruptive passenger is lower/different when it comes to high profile cases?" as the incident "leaves a lot of room for ambiguity."
News agency PTI has quoted IndiGo as saying they "have received the relevant statements and the internal committee has initiated the investigation regarding this incident."
Kunal Kamra was banned by IndiGo for six months on Wednesday. Three more airlines - Air India, SpiceJet and GoAir - too banned him "till further notice" after the government announced it was urging other airlines to follow IndiGo's example.
However, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) sources said the ban by these airlines on the comedian is a violation of due process in situations such as this. The sources pointed out that while a ban was not against the rules, there is a process to be followed before such action can take place.
According to the sources, Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) state that on receipt of a complaint an internal committee must be formed, within 30 days to probe the matter. The decision taken by the committee can be appealed against in an appellate body of the Civil Aviation Ministry and a court.
Meanwhile, passengers can only get a temporary 30-day ban.
In an unsigned and unstamped statement posted on Twitter the DGCA said: "the matter is to be referred to the internal committee" that will give a final decision, within 30 days, that will be "binding on the airline concerned".
According to the DGCA there are three categories in the list of passengers banned from flying.
The first of these, which appears be closest to the Civil Aviation Minister's description of Mr Kamra's behavior - i.e. "offensive behaviour designed to provoke & create disturbance" - is "disruptive behaviour", for which the maximum punishment is only a three-month ban.
The other two - "physically abusive behaviour" and "endangering aircraft and passengers" - carry bans of six months and two years, respectively.