While IndiGo Airlines said that a passenger "accidentally opened the emergency exit during the boarding process," the airline did not name him. Eyewitnesses, however, on condition of anonymity have told numerous news portals that it indeed was Surya.
The Opposition is now circling the central government over why no action has been taken against Surya by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and why was there a delay in reporting the matter.
Meanwhile, Union Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia said, "When the incident happened Tejasvi Surya himself reported it to the pilot and crew. Full protocol was followed as DGCA has investigated. Only after all checks the aircraft took off," news agency ANI reported.
What do the Aircraft Rules say? Has this happened before? What action was taken against passengers earlier? The Quint answers.
But What Did the Civil Aviation Minister Say?
A day after allegations against Tejasvi Surya surfaced, Union Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia said:
"It is important to look at the facts. The door was opened by him by mistake when the flight was on the ground and after all checks, the flight was allowed to take off. He also apologised for the mistake."
Scindia added, "When the incident happened Tejasvi Surya himself reported it to the pilot and crew. Full protocol was followed as DGCA has investigated. Only after all checks the aircraft took off. He (Surya) himself apologised for delay caused due to the incident."
What Do The Rules Say?
Section 22 in The Aircraft Rules, 1937, states that "no person shall, on board an aircraft:
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;
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.
The Quint reached out to DGCA (southern region) Air Safety Director R Rajendran who said he was "unaware of the matter" and asked us to contact the DGCA headquarters.
Rajendran was earlier quoted by The News Minute stating that "the information must have been passed to their (airline) headquarters in Delhi and it was dealt with by the DGCA headquarters in Delhi."
The Quint reached out to several DGCA officials in Delhi who refused to comment on whether the matter was dealt with in the Delhi headquarters or not.
As per Aircraft (Investigation of accidents and incidents) Rules, 2012, if an accident or an incident occurs to an aircraft then the pilot‐in‐command of the aircraft, the owner, the operator, the hirer, shall:
Send notice thereof to the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau and Director-General of Civil Aviation by the quickest means of communication available; and
In the case of an accident occurring in India, give information to the District Magistrate and the Officer‐in‐charge of the nearest Police Station of the accident and of the place where it occurred.
While the incident happened on 10 December, it was only on 17 January that DGCA officials said an inquiry has been ordered into the incident, ANI reported.
Previous Incidents and Action Against Such Passengers
25 April 2019 – In a GoAir Bengaluru-Lucknow flight with 171 passengers on-board, a first-time flier mistook the emergency exit for a regular plane window and opened it with effort, The Times of India had reported.
The flight was taxiing when the exit was opened. After the flight was stopped by the pilot, the passenger Sunil Kumar, was off-loaded and taken to the Airport police station, where police registered a case against him. He was later let off with a warning.
Kumar, a carpenter, was travelling to his hometown Lucknow. Meanwhile, other passengers were accommodated in a different flight.
10 February 2017 - A passenger on an IndiGo Mumbai-Chandigarh flight opened the aircraft’s emergency exit before take-off.
He was arrested for endangering the lives of 176 passengers based on a complaint lodged by IndiGo Airlines itself.
The passenger Akshay R Mohan was booked under section 336 (Act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code and for violation of the Aircraft Rules, 1937.
A senior Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official had said they were informed about the incident and that the passenger had deliberately opened the emergency exit door, The Hindu reported.
Opposition Asks ‘Should an Apology Suffice?'
Several Opposition leaders have questioned why the incident was not reported and the passenger dealt with appropriately.
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said in a tweet: "Shouldn't one take suo moto cognisance of this incident? What if this happened once the aircraft had taken off rather than when it was taxiing on the runway, should an apology suffice?"
Karnataka Congress said in a tweet, "Tejasvi Surya is an example of what will happen if children playing games are given the proprietorship. An act of children's mischief by trying to open the emergency exit door of the plane has come to light. Why play with the lives of passengers?"
The Quint reached out to Surya regarding these allegations. The BJP MP, however, is yet to respond. The copy will be updated if and when he does respond.