Union Civil Aviation Minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju Monday backed the decision by airlines not to allow Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad on board their aircraft, saying "an MP is also a passenger" and can not expect "unequal treatment".
Besides, there is no clarity as to which body will become the appellate authority for a person who has been included in such a list to appeal for removal from the list. As the chorus for action against the 57-year-old lawmaker grew stronger, Indian Aviation Minister had quipped, "No citizen should ever resort to any kind of physical assault let alone an Member of Parliament".
Meanwhile, coming out in support of party MP Ravindra Gaikwad by calling the airlines ban on him "illogical", the Shiv Sena said that it looks like somebody is trying to defame party leaders. "In fact, the Union Minister was in the loop when the decision to ban Gaikwad was taken". I feel that this issue (blanket ban) should be resolved amicably through talks", Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan said after the meeting, adding, "I am playing the role of "tai" (elder sister).
Though she did not categorically call for the lifting of the ban, she pointed out that MPs need to attend Parliament and they can not always travel by train.
Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant, after the meeting, said, "All airlines have come together banning him (Gaikwad), but it is our fundamental right (to travel by air)".
Gaikwad is said to be staying at a relative's house in Pune now.
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Citizens of those country are admitted into the USA under a visa waiver programme. That ban is now on hold over legal challenges.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought that an MP will get caught in such an incident", Raju said.
The Sena MP from Osmanabad was banned from flying most major airlines on Friday forcing him to take a train from Delhi to Mumbai. "How can he be banned?" he asked.
Raju said airlines have been empowered to deny boarding to any passenger whose demeanour was not proper.
Shiv Sena toady raised the Gaikwad incident in Parliament. At times, they need to travel by plane also.
Adsul referred to a recent incident of alleged misbehaviour by comedian Kapil Sharma during a flight from Australia and wondered why no action was taken against him. While the contact numbers of Gaikwad and his wife are not available, a certain Mr Joshi, who claims to be Gaikwad's personal assistant, answered a call made to his house in Osmanabad. The airlines have requested the government to form a rule to prepare a "no-fly" list so that a passenger can't challenge it.
Sources told India Today that Raju has been supporting the airlines in the Shiv Sena MP's case. "He was arrogant. I hit him 25 times with my sandal", he told the media. "The testimony of an air hostess on board that flight shows he (Gaikwad) was not at fault", he added. "I am with my family members and I will celebrate Gudi Padwa with them before returning to Parliament on Wednesday morning", he said.