MP Ravindra Gaikwad is off the hook in so far as the airlines are concerned. There are reports that Air India may induct an aircraft
with business class seats on the Pune-Delhi route for the comfort of the MP. It seems that the MP stood his ground and others bent, eventually, after an initial fine show of good spine.
The MP has won and even his party chief, Uddhav Thackeray is reported to have backed him with assurances of legal help if need be, but counselled him on the need to behave better in future. It is a small thing compared to the resolute demand by airlines and aviation ministry that Gaikwad apologise first. He expressed his ‘regret’ which is saying ‘sorry’ but media has not seen it as an apology.
Though the non-treasury side of the political class or some sections of it saw his conduct as bad, it tried to give the impression that banning the man from their flights – a common flyer would perhaps have gone to jail – impinged on his rights as an MP, and thus constituted a breach of his privilege. Shiv Sena had threatened a motion to that effect.
But was it a breach of his privilege?
When the airlines acted quickly to keep him off their flights, the Shiv Sena cried foul asking how could they hold him away from his
duties? After all, as an elected representative has his duties to perform, both in the House and in any committees he may be on.
That amounted to hindering both his and the parliament’s functioning.
Of course, firewalling him from his duties would have been wrong.
He cannot be held back from performing his duties, the emphasis being on ‘performing’ and ‘duties’. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra
Mahajan had fortunately held that what happened constituted as an inconvenience. She was careful in not saying that it was a matter of breach of privilege.
The ban was not a wilful intent to hold him back from attending parliament but only an offshoot of an entirely different event where, by his own admission on television camera, Gaikwad had hit an Air India employee with his footwear. He had not only defended his action but had – if you had watched that footage – seemed to take pride. Pride that comes of a sense of entitlement.
The airlines which together imposed a travel restriction on him has been in the interest of safety of passengers on board an aircraft. The Aviation Minister, Ashok Gajapati Raju too had said much the same thing in the Lok Sabha and the basis of the staff’s ire was on the same basis. After his boast of “25 hits with a chappal”, it would be hard to take Gaikwad’s line that he was a “vinamra” person.
What descended upon Gaikwad was a consequence of his misconduct. Citing a report on breach of privilege case in the House of Commons, Kaul & Shakhdar point out in their Practice And Procedure Of Parliament that such claims of breach “do not discharge (a) member from the obligations to society which apply to him as much and perhaps more closely in that capacity, as they apply to other subjects (citizens)”.