Far from taking its ill-tempered MP Ravindra Gaikwad to task for his unparliamentary behaviour towards an Air India staffer on Thursday, the Shiv Sena is contemplating on an all out war against Air India by deciding to move a privilege motion against the state carrier when the Parliament convenes on Monday.
According to developments in the Shiv Sena on Friday, which Firstpost is privy of, the party is mulling to make a huge issue out of the Gaikwad episode inside the Parliament as well as outside.
The party believes that the rights of its MP were violated and will meet Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Monday to apprise her of the situation. The party has also sought for an audience with Air India chairman-cum-managing director Ashwini Lohani on Monday.
In a strategic meeting to discuss the party's next course of action as it finds itself embroiled in the Gaikwad-Air India controversy, Shiv Sena chief Udhhav Thackeray made it abundantly clear that any punitive action against its errant parliamentarian is out of the question.
"We will rally in full support for Gaikwad. His honour as an MP has been hurt and he has been mistreated. We must stand by him," Thackeray apparently told MPs in New Delhi over the phone from Mumbai.
Violent behaviour by the Shiv Sena MP had an immediate fallout as both Air India and IndiGo cancelled his ticket forcing him to take a train.
In an unprecedented step, Air India and all private carriers had on Friday refused to fly Gaikwad for assaulting an airline employee.
But the Lok Sabha member from Osmanabad in Maharashtra remained defiant and refused to apologise for repeatedly beating and trying to push down Air India employee R Sukumar from the aircraft.
Gaikwad, who has been in the eye of the storm ever since the Air India controversy, on Friday took a train from Delhi to Pune after Indigo and Air India cancelled his tickets on their respective flights, according to NDTV.
"Air India and member airlines have decided to ban this MP from flying on all our flights with immediate effect," the Federation of Indian Airlines said in a statement.
"We believe that exemplary action should be taken in such incidents to protect employee morale and public safety," said FIA associate director Ujjwal Dey.
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 GoAir. 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.
However, the government said there was no law under which such proscription can be made.
Minister of State for Law, PP Chaudhary told a private television news channel that if a person commits a crime he can be punished but he cannot be prevented from flying.
"There is no such law that restricts a person from flying. If somebody has committed a crime, then you can punish him. But refusing a ticket is no punishment when there is no such law. And, to my knowledge, there is no such law," Chaudhary said.
Earlier in the day, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha reportedly said the legality of the ban needed to be examined.
"We have to see if this action of the airlines is within the framework of law," Sinha said.
However, airlines defended the move, saying imposing a ban on a person from flying is very much within their jurisdiction.
Sources in Air India cited Chapter IV of Carriage by Air Act, 1972, which confers on the airlines the right to refuse a ticket to any person.
Sources also cited Rule 22 and 23 of the Aircraft Rules, 1937, to justify the ban on Gaikwad.
The rules state that "no person onboard an aircraft shall assault, intimidate or threaten, whether physically or verbally a crew member/ any person...which is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft or of any person."
As per Schedule VI of Aircraft Rules, 1937 such an offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term not
exceeding one year or with fine not exceeding Rs 5 lakh.
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.
Gaikwad had on Thursday hit a 60-year-old Air India duty manager with a slipper because he was refused a business class seat. The MP went on to say unapologetically that he hit the staffer because the latter misbehaved with him. The Shiv Sena justified his actions by saying that he had paid for a business class ticket but was not given and it is not the first time such a thing had happened.
"I hit the staffer 25 times, not just once," was Gaikwad's brazen response when Firstpost asked him about the incident. "I kept asking for a complaint book but they kept refusing. Finally, I told them I am an MP but they said 'Who MP, we only understand Narendra Modi,'" Gaikwad said.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Mar 24, 2017 23:08:18 IST