Clapping & whistling onboard: If charged, Kerala Strikers can get 1 year imprisonment

By Jacob K Philip

The troubles of the 28 members of Kerala Strikers, the celebrity cricket team, who were deplaned at Kochi airport by the Commander of a Kochi-Hyderabad Indigo Airlines flight, are far from over.

If the Indigo Airlines Commander is to follow proper procedure, there are every chances for all the Strikers to get booked soon. And if the charges are proved, they might get a punishment of one year imprisonment and/or a fine of Rs 5 lakhs.

It was aboard Indigo Airlines Kochi -Hyderabad Flight 314 that the drama unfolded on Friday afternoon. As per the media reports, while the air hostesses were busy giving flight safety demonstration inside the aircraft, just before takeoff, the Strikers clapped and whistled loudly. Some other passengers said to have objected the behavior of the team. Feeling offended and insulted, the cabin crew rushed to the Captain and complained. The Captain in turn informed the ATC and brought the aircraft back to the apron and ordered the celebrity cricket team out.
Later, the organizer of the Celebrity Cricket League (CCL) told the media people: “There’s no rule that says you can’t clap on board. Clapping is not a crime. We didn’t misbehave with anyone.”

Clapping is of course no crime. But disturbing the crew of an aircraft definitely is. Especially when the crew were performing a crucial duty directly related to the safety of the aircraft.

See the 23rd & 22nd rules of Indian Aircraft Rules (1937):

Rule 23
Assault and other acts endangering safety or jeopardizing good order and discipline.–
(1) No person shall, on board an aircraft, ─
(a) assault, intimidate or threaten, whether physically or verbally, any person,
(b) intentionally cause damage to or destroy any of property,
(c) consume alcoholic beverages or drugs,
which is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft or of any person or jeopardizes the good order and discipline on board the aircraft.

Rule 22:
Assault and other acts of interference against a crew member – No person shall, on board an aircraft, ─
a) assault, intimidate or threaten, whether physically or verbally, a crew member which may interfere with the performance of the duties of the crew member or lessens the ability of the crew member to perform those duties;
b) refuse to follow a lawful instruction given by the Pilot-in-Command, or on behalf of the Pilot-in-Command by a crew member, for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the aircraft or of any person or property on board or for the purpose of maintaining good order and discipline on board.

If the Kerala Strikers indeed had clapped and whistled while the safety demo was on, it is obvious that they are guilty of violating the above rules.

Now, can the Commander decide to not to proceed further with the issue?
Of course not.
As per a circular (F.No. AS/CABIN SAFETY/CIRCULAR/2010 CABIN SAFETY CIRCULAR NO. 2 OF 2010) released by DGCA on 27th January, 2010, it is mandatory for the Commander to report such incidents without any delay.

This is to reiterate that the procedure to report incidents of unruly/disruptive passenger is same as that for any reportable incident. However for the benefit of all concerned the reporting procedure is as below:
All incidents are to be reported to Director Air Safety – Headquarters (Cabin Safety Division) and in addition to Director Air Safety / Regional Controller Air Safety in whose region the flight lands after the incident.
The information is to be immediately reported by Chief of Flight Safety/Cabin Crew Nodal Officer (telephonically) as above and written information should be submitted within 12 hours of the landing of the aircraft as per the enclosed performa.

The penalty too is there in the rules. See schedule VI of the Aircraft Rules 1937 .

Offences punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or with fine not exceeding five lakh rupees, or with both.

(Jacob K Philip,  a Kochi based aviation analyst, is the editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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