The Congress on Tuesday accused Bharatiya Janata Party MP Tejasvi Surya of putting the lives of his co-passengers in danger after reports emerged that he had opened the emergency exit door of an IndiGo aircraft as it was about to take off from Chennai on December 10.

On Tuesday, news website South First quoted an unidentified passenger on the flight alleging that the BJP Yuva Morcha chief did so on a Chennai-Tiruchirappalli flight. Surya, along with the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit chief K Annamalai, was seated next to one of the emergency exits on the first row of the aircraft.

“The cabin crew gave them a special briefing meant for the emergency row,” the passenger said, according to South First. “After the briefing, the two started talking to each other and in a quick moment, MP Tejasvi Surya placed his hand on the lever as if holding a gripping handle of a car and pulled it down. The emergency exit door came undone.”

The incident reportedly took place when the plane was taxiing towards the runway before take off at the Chennai airport.

As the media reports emerged on Tuesday, IndiGo and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation confirmed the incident more than a month after it took place, but did not identify Surya as the person responsible. In its statement, IndiGo said that as part of the standard operating procedure on emergency exits, the flight had to go through “mandatory engineering checks”, resulting in a delay in the departure of the flight.

Surya, on his part, neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, but said that he would respond only if the Directorate General of Civil Aviation or airline were to release an official statement. However, the South First article and at least two other reports in The Indian Express and The Deccan Herald said that the BJP leader was let off after he wrote an apology letter.

It is not clear whether IndiGo had reported the incident immediately to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, as is the protocol.

Commenting on the allegations, the Congress on Tuesday questioned what Surya’s intention was, and why the authorities hid the incident for so long, PTI reported.

“Tejasvi Surya is an example of what will happen if children playing games are given the proprietorship,” the Karnataka unit of Congress wrote on Twitter. “An act of children’s mischief by trying to open the emergency exit door of the plane has come to light. Why prank with the lives of passengers?”

The chief of the Congress’ Karnataka unit DK Shivakumar remarked: “For a safe take-off and landing, always fly with Congress.”

Congress MP Randeep Surjewala asked whether Surya’s actions compromised the safety of passengers.

IndiGo and DGCA statements

In its statement, the DGCA said that the safety of the passengers was not compromised due to the incident, The Indian Express reported.

“The crew took note and resultantly, all appropriate airworthiness action, such as reinstalling of door, pressurisation check etc were carried out before the release of the aircraft for departure,” the civil aviation authority said.

Meanwhile, IndiGo said that the passenger had immediately apologised for his action, PTI reported. “As per SOPs [Standard Operating Procedures], the incident was logged and the aircraft underwent mandatory engineering checks, which led to a delay in the flight’s departure,” it said.

An unidentified official from the Airports Authority of India told The Indian Express that the airline did not inform it about the incident. “We were not informed when the incident took place, no report was filed in this regard,” the official said.