Even as Air India lifted the flight ban on Shiv Sena Member of Parliament Ravindra Gaikwad after the MP expressed regret, the airline has decided that it will “let the law take its own course and will not press for a compromise,” sources said on Monday.
The carrier had filed two FIRs at the IGI Airport police station, one for assault on its employee and one for forcible occupation of aircraft. Acting on an Air India complaint, Delhi Police last month registered a case against Gaikwad under Section 308 (attempt to culpable homicide) and 355 (assault or criminal force with intent to dishonour person).
“While the carrier in normal course deals with unruly passengers, the instances of a passenger assaulting the airline employees are rare. Therefore, we are clear that we will not press for any compromise or settlement (with Gaikwad) and let the courts decide matter,” a senior Air India official said.
Air India, which had barred Gaikwad from flying after the March 23 incident wherein the MP assaulted an airline employee, withdrew the flight ban after orders from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
“With the MP having expressed regret over the incident and the ministry issuing written orders, we had to lift the ban since the government is our owner,” the official said.
Gaikwad said in Lok Sabha last Thursday that he had been held guilty without a probe and had been subjected to a media trial. Denying that he had beaten up an airline official, he claimed a number of officials shouted at him and pushed him while he replied to them quietly.
Last Friday, the Ministry of Civil Aviation advised the state-owned carrier and other private airlines to revoke the ban “in view of the apology tendered and undertaking of good conduct in future” by the MP.
The Sena MP last Thursday wrote a letter to civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju expressing his “regrets” over the “unfortunate incident” on March 23 in the Air India Flight No. AI-852 seat No.1F.
“While the on-going investigation will bring out the factual sequence of events to fix responsibility, this incident may kindly not be seen as a reason for likely recurrence of such an event in future also,” Gaikwad wrote.
The Federation of Indian Airlines, comprising Jet Airways, SpiceJet, GoAir and IndiGo, also subsequently lifted the flight ban on the Lok Sabha member from Osmanabad. The FIA said on Saturday that its members are restoring the flying privileges to Gaikwad “under the assurance that our assets and colleagues shall be accorded the respect that they deserve for the hard work that they put in every day”.
Even as the ban was lifted, Air India had said that it “remains committed to ensure that its employees are not assaulted and neither misbehaved with by any passenger and would always take strong action to preserve the dignity of its employees at all times.”
While the Air India employee unions wanted the ban to continue, the carrier went by the advice of the government. Air India employee unions had backed the carrier’s decision to ban the unruly MP, with the AI Cabin Crew Association on Friday morning saying that Gaikwad “will continue to be a risk to Flight Safety and flight operations and to cabin crew safety on board, and hence government must think long and hard about letting him back on.”