The Delhi Police on Monday, 15 August, filed a case against social media influencer Bobby Kataria, seven months after he recorded a video in which he can be seen smoking inside a purported SpiceJet plane.
The video had gone viral on social media last week, following which Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia ordered a probe into the matter.
In the video, Kataria can be seen lighting a cigarette and smoking while lying down on the seat of an aircraft, which was reportedly flying from Dubai to Delhi on 21 January.
The airline had lodged a complaint against Kataria with the Gurgaon Police in the matter on 2 February and said that the incident took place in Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport. The complaint said that the "brazen unlawful act" endangered the life of passengers on board and caused "unlawful interference" in the security of flight operations, The Indian Express reported.
Later, Jasbir Singh, SpiceJet's manager for legal and company affairs, lodged a complaint with the Delhi Police on 13 August, alleging that Kataria was encouraging his fans to imitate his acts and carry out such destructive behaviour.
"The matter had been investigated thoroughly in January when the video was brought to our notice and a complaint had been filed by the airline with the Udyog Vihar police station in Gurgaon. Upon seeking a response from police authorities in Gurgaon, we were advised on August 12 that the matter does not fall in their jurisdiction and accordingly a complaint was lodged with the Delhi Police," a SpiceJet spokesperson said.
The police thus filed a First Information Report (FIR) under Section 3 of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, 1982, The Indian Express reported.
The issue was also referred to an independent committee constituted as per provisions of Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) on handling of unruly passengers. The decision of the committee is still pending.
The spokesperson further said, "A preliminary internal enquiry was conducted by us wherein it was ascertained that the incident took place inside the aircraft during boarding, which is also evident from the video uploaded by Kataria."
"Since cabin crew were occupied with their duties during boarding and Kataria was seated in the 21st row which was not in close vicinity to any of the cabin crew at the relevant time of the incident, no one observed him smoking and making the video and neither did any fellow passengers notice or raise any concern," he added.
'Video Shot on Dummy Plane,' Claims Kataria
On the other hand, Kataria, who has more than 6 lakh followers on Instagram, claimed that the video was shot on a "dummy plane" in 2019 or 2020.
"It is a dummy plane and part of my biopic. It was shot in 2019 or 2020… somewhere around February. It was shot in Dubai. People who are sitting in the dummy plane are also part of the shoot. The shooting for my biopic started in 2019 and it is likely to be completed in 2024," Kataria said.
He also asked how a lighter could be permitted inside an airplane.
"I do not see the need to give any justification. The person who shared the video on social media could have reached out to me and I would have explained, but everyone wanted TRP (publicity). I want to ask everyone, how can a lighter make its way into an airplane? It would be detected by a scanner. A cigarette one can still carry, but not a lighter," the influencer added.
(With inputs from The Indian Express.)