Today, Air India lifted a flying ban on Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad which was enacted after Gaikwad assaulted a veteran flight employee two weeks ago.
Air India took this decision after the Civil Aviation Minister wrote to the national carrier asking the restrictions to be lifted. This follows Gaikwad’s reappearance in Parliament on Thursday where he declared that he was “a victim of injustice” and offered condolences for the incident – though he fell short of offering an apology to the airline staff he assaulted and abused.
Who is Ravindra Gaikwad?
Gaikwad, a member of Shiv Sena representing the Osmanabad constituency of Maharashtra, is a first-time MP and two-time MLA from Omerga in Osmanabad.
Why was Gaikwad banned by Air India?
Gaikwad had booked an open ticket on the Pune-Delhi flight AI-852. Though he wanted to fly business class, the aircraft had an all-economy configuration. According to AI official, Gaikwad’s staff in Delhi were informed about this on Wednesday. They decided to go ahead and said that the politician would board the flight.
Gaikwad boarded the flight taking his seat in the economy class and reached Delhi. However, he didn’t alight the aircraft and asked for an apology from the director and AI chairman. He even said that we wouldn’t move until they tendered their apology.
In order to pacify the enraged MP, the airline’s duty manager went to the plane and apologized for the inconvenience the MP had to go through. As he was trying his best to convince Gaikwad, the MP started abusing the manager, removed his slipper and hit him at least 16-18 times, as told by AI spokesperson.
Following the incident, an association of airlines grounded Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad and decided that he would not be allowed on flights with immediate effect. After the statement was released, Air India cancelled the MP’s ticket which he had purchased to fly from Delhi to Pune. As he tried his luck with the private carrier Indigo, they also joined the move to ban him. A total of five airlines, — Indigo, SpiceJet, GoAir and Jet Airways and Vistara — along with Air India banned Gaikwad, who refuses to tender an apology.
According to Hindustan Times, the joint statement by the airlines read: “We believe that 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 … We believe that exemplary action should be taken in such incidents to protect employee morale and public safety.”
On Thursday, after over a week of absence, Gaikwad again appeared in Parliament. Playing the victim card, he said that he had only retaliated against provocation, claiming that he was “a victim of injustice” and a “media trial”.
Gaikwad wrote a letter to civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju. In this, he conveyed his “regrets” over the “unfortunate incident”. However, he stopped short of tendering an apology to either the national carrier or to the staffer concerned. According to Hindustan Times, the Air India Cabin Crew Association responded by saying that Gaikwad should not be allowed to fly until he tenders an “unconditional apology”.
Shiv Sena MPs at this point surrounded Aviation Minister Raju and shouted at him to rescind the ban. The ruckus peaked, and the Speaker – Sumitra Mahajan – was forced to adjourn the House. Later, Raju declared that the ban could not be revoked as Gaikwad was a passenger and the law should be allowed to take his own course.
The Speaker, however, argued differently, She said, “MPs have to come to Parliament. MPs have to go for meetings and it is not possible to travel by train to those places and come back. So one has to take flights. If there is a ban on flying, then an MP cannot fulfill his/her duty.”
Shiv Sena MPs continued to disrupt the House proceedings, to the chagrin of the other MPs. Finally, after an assurance by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Raju met with Air India senior representatives and secured the lifting of the ban.
Gaikwad has a long history of breaking the law
According to MyNeta, the portal which provides criminal and financial background information on candidates, there are almost a dozen of charges mentioned against Gaikwad, including culpable homicide and rioting.
Here is the list mentioned by Gaikwad in his 2014 affidavit:
- 1 charges related to culpable homicide not amounting to murder (IPC Section-304)
- 1 charges related to criminal intimidation (IPC Section-506)
- 1 charges related to Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty (IPC Section-332)
- 2 charges related to Punishment for Rioting (IPC Section-147)
- 2 charges related to Being member of an unlawful assembly (IPC Section-143)
- 2 charges related to wrongful restraint (IPC Section-341)
- 2 charges related to Act endangering life or personal safety of others (IPC Section-336)
- 1 charges related to Rioting, armed with deadly weapon (IPC Section-148)
- 1 charges related to Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offense committed in prosecution of common object (IPC Section-149)
- 1 charges related to Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others (IPC Section-337)
- 1 charges related to Mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees (IPC Section-427)
- 1 charges related to Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty (IPC Section-353)
- 1 charges related to voluntarily causing hurt (IPC Section-323)
The Logical Indian take
Instances like Gaikwad’s harassment of civilians repeatedly show how Indian politicians abuse their power without any apparent remorse. The Logical Indian condemns such impunity that is enjoyed by our leaders.
When the ban was enacted, there was much applause from the public for the strict action. Now, with the ban lifted, Gaikwad will be able to travel freely again. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan made a valid point when she said that MPs need to travel to get their work done. However, will this lead to the MP being punished by the law for physically assaulting civilians? Will the legal process be undertaken to punish him proceed unhindered? Where is the guarantee for that?
Gaikwad was an unruly and uncivilised man who assaulted civilians; now he looks to go unpunished. Without facing any repercussions, without apologising to the people he hurt, without bearing responsibility for his actions.
If lawmakers break the law and get away with breaking the law, the law ceases to have any meaning.
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