Air India assault case: Centre may tweak aviation rules to help Sena MP

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Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju admonished Gaikwad for indulging in violence on the flight last week.

New Delhi: The banning of Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad from flying after he allegedly assaulted an Air India official at New Delhi’s IGI Airport last week rocked Parliament on Monday.

The Congress, which apparently supported the Shiv Sena MP and attacked the airlines in the Rajya Sabha, took the opposite line in the Lok Sabha the same day.

There are, meanwhile, some reports that indicate the government may be considering tweaking civil aviation rules to disallow airlines from blacklisting passengers to enable the Shiv Sena MP to fly again. His party also rallied behind the MP and targeted the airlines.

The Delhi Police, on its part, said it had recorded the statements of all persons who were present at the spot during the incident.

The Shiv Sena MP got support from unlikely quarters in the Rajya Sabha, with Naresh Agrawal (Samajwadi Party) raising the issue,  asking whether the airlines could take such action even before the  MP was found guilty of misconduct.

The SP Rajya Sabha member said Mr Gaikwad being put on the “no-fly” list was probably the first in Indian history as no one had so far been banned from flying for unruly behaviour in India. He was supported by Congress MPs Hussain Dalwai and Rajani Patil, who also questioned the ban on the MP.

Mr Agrawal was not allowed to raise the issue by deputy chairman P.J. Kurien on the ground that it pertained to a member of the other  House. In the Lok Sabha, members of the Shiv Sena, an ally of the ruling BJP, created an uproar demanding the lifting of the ban on flying on their MP. The government, however, justified the action by the airlines.

Aviation minister admonishes MP
The Shiv Sena’s leader in the House, Anandrao Adsul, who raised the issue, said he was only seeking lifting of the ban on flying imposed on Mr Gaikwad by all major airlines after he assaulted a 60-year-old duty manager of Air India on March 23.

The Shiv Sena members also entered into an argument in the Lok  Sabha with Congress MPs who were demanding an apology from  the MP.

The government, however, justified the action by the airlines. Civil aviation minister P. Ashok Gajapati Raju admonished Mr Gaikwad for indulging in violence on the flight last week. “I never in my wildest dreams thought an MP will get caught in such an incident,” he said, adding: “Violence of any kind (on board an aircraft) can be disastrous.”

Mr Adsul said the ban was against the Constitution and the law and the government must intervene immediately. Talking about the privileges of MPs, he said: “An MP is also a passenger… We have to keep safety issues in mind.”

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