Cutting ugly wings

It is a welcome move from the Centre to announce the first ever no-fly list that bans unruly passengers from taking flights for travel, what’s interesting is its three-tiered structure, which is sensitive to degrees of offence.

Incidentally, it became inevitable to make no-fly rules ever after Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad’s bad behaviour with an IndiGo airline staffer sparked a debate on in-flight norms and VVIP high-headedness on board. The government has announced that the new rules would be applicable to everyone on board an aircraft, including VIPs and crew. The government has also claimed that it has tried to achieve a balance between aircraft security and interests of passengers, cabin crew and airlines at large.

It would fall under the DGCA’s jurisdiction of safety norms. For any misbehaviour on airport premises, the relevant security agencies had been assigned to deal with the matter under appropriate penal provisions. The new no-fly offence rules are same to the criminal proceedings under Criminal Procedure Code of India.

For foreign carriers, the same would be applicable, in accordance with the Tokyo Convention of 1963. However, the new set of rules – under which the offenders can be barred at least for three months – the government appears having out-of-bound powers. It can twist the arms of the Airlines – either private or public – if it doesn’t want dissidents and activists – flying for symposiums, conferences or protests.

As there is no upper limit stipulated for maximum level of misbehaviour, which means technically, a person indulging in such conduct could be barred for life. Even the ‘security’ clause of this new law is vague.  The government must guarantee that no discrimination would take place on the basis of citizenship, religion, ideology, world-views.

However, the scope for appeal and to challenge the no-fly tag had been permitted, as the Rule says, ‘The revised Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) also carry provisions of appeal against the ban. Aggrieved persons can appeal within a period of 60 days to the Appellate Committee formed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.’

The existing CAR defines an unruly flyer and what all can be done to deal with such passengers but it does not mention any penalties. It merely says ‘passengers who are likely to be unruly and disruptive must be carefully monitored, and if necessary, refused embarkation or off-loaded, if deemed to pose a threat to the safety and security of the flight, fellow passengers or staff, while on board aircraft.’

Incidentally, there is already a separate no-fly list of people who have been marked out by India’s security agencies as possible security threats and such persons are already barred for life from boarding a domestic flight. The no-fly list has two components – unruly passengers banned by airlines and a separate list provided by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for persons deemed to endanger the national security and both of them are applicable.

The regulations also provide for doubling the ban period in case of subsequent offence. Legal implications apart, the new regulations appear to be a check on misconducts of Gaikwad’s in future – who used to take the airlines and its crew members for granted.

         

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