New Delhi: Comedian Kunal Kamra has sent a legal notice to private airline carrier IndiGo for imposing a six-month ban on him from for heckling Republic news channel’s editor Arnab Goswami while on the aircraft. The heckling incident that occurred on January 28 had led to Kamra being banned from flying several domestic airlines including Air India, Go Air and Spice Jet.
In his legal notice, sent on January 31 for “illegal, high handed and arbitrary action” of banning him for flying the airline, Kamra has sought revocation of the order along with a compensation of Rs 25 lakh and an additional Rs 1 lakh to be paid as his lawyer’s fees.
On January 28, while travelling in an IndiGo plane from Mumbai to Lucknow, Kamra had heckled Goswami for his brand of journalism. Kamra had shot the entire monologue and put it up on Twitter soon after. Kamra received a mixed response for his act: some called it unacceptable behaviour and several others termed it courageous.
Following IndiGo’s decision, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and minister Hardeep Puri on Twitter announced that he had “advise(d)” other airliners too to put him on their no-fly list. Air India, Go Air and Spice Jet followed suit and imposed ban “until further notice”.
The legal notice, sent through Kamra’s lawyer Prashant Sivaranjan, calls IndiGo’s decision to ban him as “a knee jerk reaction” and that it was taken without following either the principles of natural justice nor the procedure in law as prescribed under the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR).
The airline had announced its drastic decision only Twitter. The statement said, “In light of the recent incident on board 6E 5317 from Mumbai to Lucknow, we wish to inform that we are suspending Mr. Kunal Kamra from flying with IndiGo for a period of six months, as his conduct onboard was unacceptable behaviour.” The airline further tweeted, “Hereby, we wish to advise our passengers to refrain from indulging in personal slander whilst onboard, as this can potentially compromise the safety of fellow passengers.”
@MoCA_GoI @HardeepSPuri In light of the recent incident on board 6E 5317 from Mumbai to Lucknow, we wish to inform that we are suspending Mr. Kunal Kamra from flying with IndiGo for a period of six months, as his conduct onboard was unacceptable behaviour. 1/2
— IndiGo (@IndiGo6E) January 28, 2020
Kamra has objected to the airlines’ decision to choose a social media platform such as Twitter to send official communication. “…smacks of arbitrariness and is completely contrary to the principles of natural justice as well as the procedure in law as prescribed under the CAR,” the notice states.
In the legal notice, Kamra has stated that he was merely exercising his right to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.
The notice further terms the airlines’ decision as a direct attack on Kamra’s freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India. The notice says, “Freedom to travel, both within and outside the confines of the territory of the state, has been regarded by the Supreme Court as axiomatic as well as an inherent part of the expression “personal liberty” occurring in Article 21 of the Constitution.”
Along with monetary compensation, Kamra has also sought action against the errant officials responsible for imposing the ban.