Shiv Sena MP 'grounded' for hitting AI staffer, FIR lodged
New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) In an unprecedented step, Air India and all private carriers on Friday refused to fly Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad for assaulting an airline employee. The Delhi Police has booked him for attempted culpable homicide.
The MP, who has been summoned by party chief Uddhav Thackeray, had to catch a train to Mumbai later in the day.
However, Gaikwad -- Lok Sabha member from Osmanabad in Maharashtra -- remained defiant and refused to apologise for repeatedly beating and trying to push down Air India officer R. Sukumar from the aircraft on Thursday.
A Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) statement said: "Air India and member airlines have decided to ban this MP from flying on all our flights with immediate effect."
"We believe that exemplary action should be taken in such incidents to protect employee morale and public safety," added FIA Associate Director Ujjwal Dey.
Air India has said it was examining the possibility of creating a 'no fly' list of unruly passengers.
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association also sought an unconditional apology from Gaikwad and threatened to direct its members "not to operate any flight which has Gaikwad on board".
The Sena leader earlier vowed to fly back to Pune but Air India cancelled his ticket.
Besides Air India, the airlines which won't allow Gaikwad to fly as FIA members are IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and Go Air. AirAsia and Vistara, which are not with FIA, joined them.
The decision was taken a day after Gaikwad thrashed Sukumar repeatedly with a slipper after he was forced to travel in economy class from Pune to Delhi despite holding a business class ticket.
Amid speculation that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had sought an explanation from Gaikwad, the MP dared Delhi Police to arrest him and also alleged that it was Sukumar who hit him first.
Special Commissioner of Police Dependra Pathak said that an FIR had been registered a FIR :and the case has been transferred to the Crime Branch for a through probe".
Pathak said Gaikwad had been booked on charges of attempt to commit culpable homicide and assault or criminal force with intent to dishonour a person under the Indian Penal Code. Air India had lodged a complaint with police on Thursday, but Delhi Police took legal opinion before finally registering an FIR on Friday.
On Thursday, when Gaikwad refused to de-board, Sukumar said he first requested the MP in English to get off the plane but was told to speak in Hindi.
When he began to speak in Hindi, Gaikwad flared up and hit him with his slipper. All though Thursday, Gaikwad boasted how he had hit the staffer with his slipper "25 times".
"I will not apologise. Why should I? It's not my mistake. They should apologise first, then (we) will see."
Gaikwad also shot off complaints to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan demanding an inquiry into the incident.
FIA's Dey said: "We believe an assault on any one of our employees is an assault on all of us and on ordinary law abiding citizens of our country who work hard to earn a living."
Vistara said it was "in full solidarity" with Air India.
Gaikwad "will be barred from flying in any of our flights with immediate effect", it said. "Disruptive and abusive behaviour by passengers is a serious issue and cannot be tolerated."
AirAsia said it "does not tolerate abusive or unruly behaviour by passengers that puts the safety of other guests and crew members on board at risk".
Gaikwad finally left for Mumbai onboard Sampark Kranti Express on Friday evening.
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju added: "Politicians are not above law."