Quick-draw comic ban
India is getting to be quite an exciting place. Rules are being constantly violated to punish anyone who is critical not just of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government but also of anyone who represents its views. Not that Kunal Kamra, the comedian who heckled Arnab Goswami during a flight, was at his usual comic best in the encounter — or non-encounter, since Mr Goswami was silent — but he clearly wanted to give Mr Goswami the feel of being relentlessly bullied and abused. It was not pleasant, but Mr Kamra complied with the crew’s orders and apologized to them and to the captain. It is amazing that the Union civil aviation minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, should be quicker than a shot to order the airline to ban Mr Kamra from flying since, Mr Puri claimed, the video tweeted by the comedian showed that his behaviour posed a danger to other passengers. The minister’s intervention is being put down as protectiveness towards the editor in chief of the television channel that is a major medium of the BJP’s message. Besides, Mr Kamra, a comedian who makes no secret of his derision for towering BJP personages, invoked Rohith Vemula’s mother, an erstwhile prey of the channel, in the encounter.
Although Mr Puri might be presumed to have taken his instant decision on the basis of the no-fly rules of the directorate general of civil aviation, funnily enough, the rules say something very different. The airline in question banned Mr Kamra from flying for six months, but verbal abuse with no physical engagement carries a maximum ban of three. Three other airlines banned Mr Kamra too. Yet the rules demand that the pilot in command first report the matter, then an internal committee decide in 30 days and only then can a ban come into effect. But the alleged offender can be stopped from flying during the period of the investigation. Other airlines can decide after the report of the investigation is out. The pilot’s dignified but crystal-clear letter expressing surprise that the ban happened over his head regarding an incident that he, as the person in command, did not think worth reporting, overturns this orchestrated violation of rules. The next piece of excitement may be Mr Kamra’s suit against the airline for damages.