The video was shared by several people on social media last week, following which Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia had ordered an investigation into the matter.
The incident came to the airline’s notice on January 24 and it filed a complaint with Gurgaon Police on February 2, which said the matter pertains to the IGI airport. The complainant, Jasbir Chaudhary, manager, legal and company affairs, of SpiceJet then filed a complaint with Delhi Police on August 13, alleging that Kataria is ostensibly encouraging his fans to emulate such illegal acts and follow hazardous behaviour. After taking legal opinion, Delhi Police lodged an FIR under Section 3 of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, 1982.
In the video Kataria is seen lying down on the aircraft seat and lighting a cigarette and taking a couple of puffs, posing safety risks.
According to a SpiceJet spokesperson: “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. The matter was also referred to an independent committee constituted as per provisions of Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) on handling of unruly passengers and the decision of the committee is pending.”
Chaudhary stated in his complaint, “On January 24, it came to our notice through various social media handles, requesting to take strict action against social media influencer Kataria, who had uploaded videos and pictures from his social media accounts in which he was smoking on-board during his journey through SpiceJet flight from Dubai-Delhi, on January 21. This brazen unlawful act endangers the life of on-board passengers, public safety and (causes) unlawful interference in the security of our flight operations.”
He also states, “Immediately, 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.”
The complainant claimed Kataria mostly slept throughout the flight and the only interaction crew members had with him was to ask him to settle down in his seat as boarding was getting hampered due to him standing in the aisle at one point of time during boarding. “We received a letter from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) on January 27 regarding the violations of safety protocols by Kataria, requesting us to inquire into the matter and take appropriate action against him…”
Chaudhary further said, “On February 2, a complaint was filed at Udyog Vihar police station (in Gurgaon), however, due to lack of jurisdiction, no action was taken by police.”
Anil Kumar, SHO, Udyog Vihar police station, said, “A complaint was received in this regard on February 1, 2022, and it was intimated to the complainant on February 2 that the airport is located in Delhi and, therefore, it does not lie in the jurisdiction of Gurgaon Police. There was no delay or negligence on part of Gurgaon Police. After the video went viral last week, we have again told the complainant that the matter does not fall in our jurisdiction.”
Meanwhile, Kataria, who has 6.3 lakh followers on Instagram, had defended himself for the act, which according to him was shot in 2019 or 2020. He told reporters last week: “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 was started in 2019 and it is likely to be completed in 2024. 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.”