The Delhi Police on Friday registered an FIR against Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaekwad on a complaint by Air India that the MP assaulted its 60-year-old staffer over a seat onboard a Pune to Delhi flight with his slipper repeatedly creating an uproar on Thursday. Earlier in the day, Air India and Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) had a meeting in which they decided to ban Gaekwad from flying on their aircraft with immediate effect. FIA’s members include IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and GoAir.
It was also proposed that a no fly list may also be prepared with the names of unruly or rowdy passengers. Gaekwad’s return tickets on Air India and IndiGo flights have been cancelled as of now. The MP has also submitted a complaint to Delhi Police, saying he was made to travel by Air India on Economy class even as he had business class ticket. He has further alleged that he was pushed and yelled on. Minister of State for Law and Justice PP Chaudhary has however made it clear in a statement to news agency ANI that there’s no law that bars anyone from travelling anywhere or denying a ticket. “If someone has committed a crime, he can be punished but denying a ticket is seriously wrong,” said Chaudhary. Meanwhile, according to the news agency ANI, a Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said, “Whether its a common man or a minister, anybody can have an outburst if he has been wronged. A mistake has been committed, and we will see who will be held responsible. The FIR has been lodged, right? We will see against who else an FIR should be filed.”
In the meantime, Indian Commercial Pilot’s Association, according to a report in DNA, wrote to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju demanding an unconditional apology from Gaekwad stating they would not operate on any flight with Gaekwad on board if he fails to apologise.
READ: Who is Ravindra Gaekwad
The incident happened on Thursday when Gaekwad was travelling to Delhi from Pune and was to catch a morning flight. Though he had a business class ticket coupon with him, Gaekwad claims he was forced to travel by economy class in an Air India flight and he claimed this has happened in the past as well. Air India officials claim they informed him prior that the flight he took AI 852 didn’t have business class seats at all as it was an all economy class aircraft and that it was not a question of availability. Officials said in reports that due to the Parliament session, he took the flight despite two other flights which were available with business class tickets.
Upon arrival at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport at around 10:30 am, Gaekwad created a ruckus inside the plane and refused to alight. The MP didn’t budge to repeated requests from the crew to vacate the plane as the cleaning staff was supposed to prepare the plane for the next flight. Gaekwad claims the staff inside the plane was inconsiderate and rude to him. After one staffer Sukumar, 60, didn’t give much importance to him being an MP, whom he claimed insulted him, Gaekwad held him by the collar and thrashed him with his slippers.
The staff claimed they kept requesting him that if he throws Sukumar out of the plane, the staffer will die. But reportedly Gaekwad didn’t bother. After he exited the plane and the incident came to light, Gaekwad boasted on camera that he had, in fact, hit the staffer and he didn’t repent the act at all.
The incident drew huge furore on social media and leaders from opposition and even partner BJP slammed the Shiv Sena MP. His party, however, waited a day to condemn the act and ask for an explanation from Gaekwad.
Air India and Sukumar filed separate complaints – one for delaying the flight by 40 minutes by holding it wrongly and another for the MP’s high-handedness. After the incident, the airline staffer wrote a complaint letter that read: “R Gaikwad hit me, used bad words and not only broke my specs but humiliated me in front of the whole crew. God save our country if this is the culture and behavior of our MPs.”
Gaikwad defended himself arguing that the staffer had behaved rudely with him. “Haan maine usko maara tha, usne badtameezi ki thi (Yes, I hit him. He misbehaved with me).”
Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande told PTI on Thursday that the party does not subscribe to any such reaction by any of our party members, but added that Gaekwad has accepted his actions. MoS Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha told ANI yesterday: “Unruly behaviour and violence on our aviation network regrettable. Each such incident will be investigated and appropriate action taken.”
Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said, “This is unacceptable and some kind of action needs to be taken. It should be coming from his party as well as all the MPs when they speak in one voice in regards to privileges accorded to them. They should also be speaking in one voice to seek accountability when this privilege is misused. It is not only Shiv Sena’s responsibility, it is also the responsibility of the government which is in power. Aviation minister should take action because it is a government employee who has been attacked by this MP.
57-year-old Gaekwad is a first-time MP and two time former MLA and is elected to the Lok Sabha from Osmanabad in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region. He has a string of cases against him, including charges such as criminal intimidation, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, using violence to deter public servants from discharging duty etc. He is known as ‘Ravi sir’ in his constituency.