The pilot of the IndiGo flight on which comedian Kunal Kamra heckled journalist Arnab Goswami earlier this week asked the airline on Thursday why it put the comedian on the no-fly list for six months without consulting him.
“Disheartened to learn that my airline has taken action in this case solely on the basis of social media posts,” the pilot, Rohit Mateti, said in his statement. “Kamra’s behaviour, while unsavoury, was not qualifying of a level one unruly passenger. Pilots can attest to incidents which were similar and/or worse in nature that were not deemed unruly.”
According to civil aviation rules, a Level One offence includes any unruly physical gestures or verbal harassment – including unruly behaviour from drunk passengers – for which the person can be banned from flying for up to three months. However, the penalty can be imposed only after an internal inquiry headed by a retired judge.
On Tuesday, Kamra had posted a video in which he was seen heckling Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami. The IndiGo captain said Kamra had apologised to the flight crew multiple times, and “at no point did he not comply with crew instructions”.
The pilot said he spoke to the comedian on the latter’s request and they both agreed that “mid flight” was not a place to air political differences. However, “as captain of 6E5317 Mumbai-Lucknow flight on January 28, I do not find...events reportable in any way”, Mateti added.
The airline released a statement taking note of the pilot’s concerns. “We have taken cognizance of the letter of the pilot, who was operating the flight on which Kunal Kamra and Arnab Goswami were traveling,” IndiGo said, according to ANI. “We have received the relevant statements and the internal committee has initiated the investigation regarding this incident.”
In the video that Kamra posted on Twitter on Tuesday evening he was seen calling Goswami a “coward” and mocking him for being a “nationalist”. The comedian told the journalist he was confronting him for discussing the caste of Rohith Vemula’s mother Radhika Vemula on his show. Vemula was a PhD student at Hyderabad Central University. He committed suicide on January 17, 2016, after facing caste discrimination. Goswami, who is the editor-in-chief of Republic TV, did not respond to Kamra’s comments, and kept looking at his laptop and had his earphones plugged in.