Kunal Kamra Sends Legal Notice To IndiGo Demanding Apology, Revocation Of Six-Month Ban
Days after IndiGo banned Kunal Kamra for a six-month period for allegedly heckling journalist Arnab Goswami on a flight, the comedian has sent a legal notice to the airline demanding an unconditional apology, revocation of the ban and Rs 25 lakh compensation.
In the notice sent to the airline on Friday, Kamra's lawyer stated that his client has suffered "mental pain and agony" due to "illegal, arbitrary and high-handed decision" of the airline.
Kamra was banned by IndiGo for six months on Tuesday for allegedly harassing the Republic TV Editor on its Mumbai-Lucknow flight.
As Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri advised other airlines to impose similar restrictions on the comedian, SpiceJet, GoAir and Air India imposed a similar ban on him without specifying any period. However, two airlines of the Tata group - Vistara and AirAsia India - have stated that they are "reviewing" the matter.
An IndiGo statement on Saturday said, "the company will duly respond to any legal notice that it receives in relation to this matter."
Kamra has given IndiGo one week's time to respond to the legal notice, accessed by PTI.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation had on Wednesday stated that the action by the four carriers is in "complete consonance" with its regulations, the pilot-in-command of the Mumbai-Lucknow flight had told IndiGo management on Thursday that Kamra's actions were "unsavoury" but not "unruly" and this incident was not "reportable in any way".
Hours after the captain's letter to his management became public on Thursday, the Aviation minister justified IndiGo's action, stating that airlines must ensure 'zero tolerance' for any activity that has the potential to jeopardize passengers' safety.
In the legal notice to IndiGo's Chief Executive Officer Ronojoy Dutta, Kamra's lawyer Prashant Sivarajan said that Goswami -- against whom Kamra's "exchanges" were directed -- neither made any complaint nor requested the intervention of the cabin crew at any point of time during the flight.
Kamra first came to know about his ban through the airline's post on Twitter on Tuesday night, Sivarajan said. "It was only subsequently the next day at 9.38 am that my client received an email from your consumer relations team officially intimating him about the six-month ban," said Sivarajan.
As per the 2017 rules of aviation regulator DGCA, if a passenger engages in any unruly behaviour, the pilot-in-command has to file a complaint and only then an internal committee of the airline can probe the matter and take punitive action based on findings of the investigation.
The pilot-in-command has not made any complaint against him and therefore, as per the regulations, no action can be initiated against him, Sivarajan said.
The 2017 DGCA rules state that a passenger who verbally assaults anyone is deemed as "level 1" unruly passenger and he or she can be banned up to maximum of three months by the airline's internal committee.
Therefore, Sivarajan said, even if Kamra is found guilty by the internal committee, the maximum penalty under law is of three months. "Thus imposition of six months' ban is wholly illegal, manifestly arbitrary and non-est in law". At the end of 10-page legal notice, Sivarajan asked IndiGo to "revoke the suspension" of Kamra from flying with IndiGo airlines for a period of six months with immediate effect".
The lawyer also asked IndiGo to "tender unconditional apology towards my client in all leading newspapers as well as electronic media and on all of the social media platforms currently being operated by you".
He also asked the airline to take action "against the errant officials for imposing the instant ban in abrogation of the DGCA civil aviation requirements as notified under Aircraft Rules, 1937".
Sivarajan asked the airline to "pay compensation towards my client in sum of Rs 25 lakh on account of the mental pain and agony suffered by my client as well as losses incurred on account of cancellation of his scheduled shows and programmes in India as well as aborad on account of adoption of a totally illegal, arbitrary and high-handed procedure which is against the extant DGCA CAR (regulations)".
Apart from the 25 lakh compensation, Sivarajan also asked the airline to "pay a sum of Rs one lakh towards the cost of the present legal notice".
In a video clip posted by Kamra on his Twitter handle on Tuesday, he is seen asking Goswami if he is a "coward or a journalist".
While Goswami can be seen sitting in the plane and watching something on his laptop with his earphones plugged in, Kamra is heard telling him, "You should fight against dynasts like Rahul Gandhi, who I support, on 10 Tughlaq Lane. Arnab, you should have a reply, Arnab. Arnab, are you a coward or are you a journalist?"
A section of people on social media has questioned the stiff penalty on Kamra, asking why no action was taken against BJP MP Pragya Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blasts, who was also involved in an incident on a SpiceJet plane last December.
SpiceJet had stated that Thakur was asked by the crew on its Delhi-Bhopal flight -- which she was taking on Dec. 21 -- to move to a non-emergency row seat as she was on a wheelchair but she refused, causing a delay in the flight. While some restless passengers requested Thakur to change her seat others asked the crew to offload her.
However, Thakur was not banned by SpiceJet or any other airline from flying in their flights.