On a day domestic airlines decided to unitedly "ban" Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad from flying on their aircraft for assaulting an Air India officer, 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.
However, airlines defended the move, saying imposing a 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 Gaekwad.
Meanwhile, the MP from Maharashtra's Osmanabad, continued to brazen it out and remained unapologetic about his conduct. Meanwhile, an FIR has been registered against him on the basis of the complaint lodged by Air India for repeatedly hitting with sandals 62-year-old duty manager R Sukumar on a Pune-Delhi flight after it landed in Delhi on Thursday over not being able to fly business class despite having boarded an all-economy flight.
Later in the day, Gaikwad boarded a Mumbai-bound Agust Kranti Express train. During the journey, the lawmaker refused to talk to reporters on the matter. He, however, said that party president Uddhav Thackeray or senior leader Anil Desai will speak on it.
Sena defends Gaikwad
The Shiv Sena, however, defended the mercurial leader. Party leader Sanjay Raut said that anybody can lose temper if someone has done anything wrong with him.
Sharp criticism of Gaikwad continued to pour in from leaders across the political spectrum who termed his behaviour as "condemnable" and demanded strict action against him.
Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that the incident was in "bad taste" and it cannot be justified in any way. "This is in bad taste. If an elected representative behaves like this, it is a setback to the trust of people. Action is being taken as per law. This incident cannot be justified in any way," Naqvi said.
Congress leader Manish Tewari said that Lok Sabha should use it's plenipotentiary powers and expel the MP from house as it had done for cash for questions scam as soon as possible.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge termed the incident as "condemnable" and said MPs from any party, be it the Shiv Sena, BJP or the Congress should not behave in such a manner.
"He is stating that he himself has beaten (the staff). This type of behavior is condemnable. The civil aviation minister has condemned this act. "People should also not create a controversy to bring down the status and reputation of an institution. MPs should behave carefully and politely and the same time other staff should also behave courteously," he said.
NCP leader and former civil aviation minister Praful Patel said the MP should be barred from flying in any airline and that the Ethics Committee of the Parliament should take action against him. "The question is first what happened, then he is not repenting. He does not want to accept that he has done something wrong. He should not be allowed to fly by any airline, why only Air India. Even the police action should be very strict as there is a lot of evidence.
(With inputs from PTI)