Air India ‘urination’ case: DGCA slaps Rs 30 lakh penalty on airline, Shankar Mishra banned for 4 months
Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Friday imposed a penalty of Rs 30 lakh on Air India in connection with an incident in which a passenger named Shankar Mishra allegedly urinated on an elderly female co-passenger in November last year.
The watchdog also suspended the license of the pilot-in-command of the New York-Delhi flight and slapped a fine of 3 lakh on Air India’s Director of in-flight services for failing to discharge her duties, according to a statement.
According to news agency PTI, this was the first time that DGCA penalised an airline for unruly passenger behaviour onboard a flight. In a statement, an Air India spokesperson said it is in receipt of the DGCA order and studying it.
“We respectfully acknowledge the gaps in our reporting and are taking relevant steps to ensure that the same are addressed. We are also strengthening our crews’ awareness of and compliance with policies on the handling of incidents involving unruly passengers,” the airline spokesperson was quoted as saying by PTI.
The watchdog issued showcause notices to Air India’s Accountable Manager, Director in-flight services, all the pilots and cabin crew members of that flight as to why enforcement action should not be taken against them for dereliction of their regulatory obligations.
On Thursday, Air India banned Shankar Mishra from its flights for a duration of four months. This four-month ban is applicable from January 18 and is over and above the one-month ban implemented by the airline on December 20.
In its statement Air India said, “The independent three-member Internal Committee, under the Chairmanship of the former District Judge, has concluded that Shankar Mishra is covered under the definition of ‘unruly passenger’, and is banned from flying for a period of four months as per the relevant provisions of the Civil Aviation Requirements”.
The airline said it has shared a copy of the Internal Committee report with the DGCA and will also be intimating other airlines operating in the country.
A day after the ban was imposed on Mishra, his legal team said that they disagreed with the committee’s findings and are already in the process of appealing this decision in accordance with the DGCA CAR for Unruly Passengers, news agency ANI reported.
Advocates Ishanee Sharma and Akshat Bajpai, representing Mishra said, “We respect the authority and mandate of the Internal Inquiry Committee, we disagree with their findings and are already in the process of appealing this decision in accordance with the DGCA CAR for Unruly Passengers.”
The lawyers also said that Air India, in its ‘faulty’ report, had made up things as they could not find an “adequate explanation” about the incident.
“When the Committee could not find an adequate explanation as to how the accused could have urinated on the complainant sitting on seat 9A without also affecting the passenger on seat 9C, it has erroneously gone on to assume that there was a seat 9B in the business class in the aircraft and imagined that the accused could have stood at this imaginary seat and urinated on the complainant on seat 9A. However, there is no seat 9B in the business class on the craft – only seats 9A and 9C,” the statement said.
Earlier last week, Mishra, told a Delhi court that the complainant urinated on herself because of a medical condition and then blamed him for the act. The complainant later issued a statement and called the allegations false and derogatory. Mishra’s lawyer, senior advocate Ramesh Gupta, appeared before Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Harjyot Singh Bhalla and said the police investigation “was a joke” as it was “impossible for Mishra to access her seat in the business class”.
Gupta told the court that the complainant says the person who urinated on her was seated at 8A but Mishra was seated at 8C. Even if this was an error on part of the complainant, police “did not correct this in their remand application”.
Gupta said, “He was defamed in front of the whole country, lost his job. Look at the seating pattern, it is impossible for Mishra to have walked over to her seat and urinated on her. It was a business class seat and there was no way to gain entry to her seat. Furthermore, there was another passenger sitting next to her. If Mishra urinated on her, it would have even landed on the passenger who is also a 70-year-old lady. She has made no such complaint. The lady (complainant) is suffering from urinary incontinence… She is a dancer,… most dancers have this issue… she urinated on herself and is now blaming Mishra”.
However, just a few days before this, Shankar Mishra, told a Delhi court that he was not running away from the fact that this was an obscene and revolting act, but the complainant’s statement doesn’t make a case of using criminal force to outrage her modesty.
Mishra is currently under judicial custody. Last week, a Delhi court denied bail to him, calling the act “utterly disgusting and repulsive”. Metropolitan Magistrate (Mahila court) Komal Garg at Patiala House court denied Mishra’s bail, saying that the alleged act in itself is sufficient to outrage the modesty of any woman.