The Delhi HC, on Tuesday, pulled up DGCA for its role in the matter, asking it to explain why it endorsed the action when Kamra had been penalised without an inquiry.
It was clear early on that the four airlines that banned standup comic Kunal Kamra for heckling journalist Arnab Goswami had overstepped their remit. Indigo, which Kamra and Goswami were flying, didn’t even have a complaint from the pilot that is a must under the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) to take such action. Worse, Go, Air India, and Spicejet took their cue from a tweet by civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri “advising” other airlines to act! This followed Indigo tagging Puri in its tweet about the ban, which would suggest some back-channel prodding form the ministry. While Puri’s action doesn’t befit his role, that Goswami routinely uses his channel to fusillade the government’s critics made the optics even worse. However, it is perhaps the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the regulator, that has lost sheen the most in the matter.
The Delhi HC, on Tuesday, pulled up DGCA for its role in the matter, asking it to explain why it endorsed the action when Kamra had been penalised without an inquiry. The court also asked the regulator to list the steps it intends to take to address the action by the airlines. DGCA, at the time of the controversy, had defended the airlines saying that it was in “complete consonance” with the rules. But, Indigo’s ban itself broke a raft of the DGCA’s CAR provisions. The six-month ban, for one, far exceeded the maximum punishment prescribed. The DGCA defending this was bad enough, but the fact that it hasn’t even taken the airlines to task for flouting the CAR since is damning evidence of regulatory failure. While Indigo relaxed the ban to three months on Thursday, the DGCA is yet to overturn the other airlines’ bans. Given the minister’s role, if the HC does censure the regulator further, the government will have only itself to blame. Upholding its own procedural code now is the only saving grace for DGCA in l’affaire Kamra.