NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian police said on Friday they were launching an investigation into a Hindu-nationalist lawmaker a day after he acknowledged hitting an Air India official 25 times with his sandals in a row over a business class seat.
The state carrier and other airlines said they would bar Ravindra Gaikwad from flying after the fracas which has triggered a debate on the behaviour of members of the political elite, and calls for a no-fly list for unruly passengers.
Gaikwad, from the Shiv Sena party, allies of India’s ruling BJP, did not apologise for Thursday’s confrontation and told reporters he had been badly treated.
“I hit him 25 times with my sandals ... I hit an Air India employee ... Let them complain,” he said in a video clip published by the Hindustan Times.
“I won’t apologise. It’s their fault ... For what? When I have not made any mistake, why should I repent?,” Gaikwad told NDTV.
He said his office had booked a business class seat for him on a Pune-Delhi flight, and he was angry when he failed to get one.
He refused to leave his seat in protest after the plane landed and said he hit an Air India official who came on board to try and persuade him to move.
Air India said that service did not have any business class seats and Gaikwad’s refusal to leave had delayed other flights.
Delhi Police said they had registered a preliminary case against Gaikwad on Friday.
“We are transferring the case to our Crime Branch for a thorough investigation,” special commissioner Dependra Pathak told reporters.
Air India and the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) - a body that includes India’s biggest carrier IndiGo, owned by InterGlobe Aviation, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and Go Air - said on Friday they had barred Gaikwad from their flights.
“Such customers are not welcome on our carriers and we seek the support of the government and security agencies to enforce ... a ‘no fly’ list,” FIA added in a statement.
The incident triggered outrage on social media where #RavindraGaikwad was a top trending topic on Friday.
“This is how lawmakers make mockery of rule of law,” said Twitter user Yashwant (@yashwant_7).
Reporting by Aditi Shah and Mayank Bhardwaj; Additional reporting by Malini Menon; Editing by Susan Thomas and Andrew Heavens