March 10, 2021 9:10:50 am
TAKING SUO motu note of the fact that many passengers in the Air India flight from Kolkata to New Delhi on March 5 wore masks below their chin and showed a “stubborn reluctance” to wear them properly, the Delhi High Court has issued guidelines for passengers and said that a passenger should be put on a “no-fly” list in case of repeated refusal to follow the Covid-19 protocol.
Justice C Hari Shanker in an order passed on Monday said that such a situation “is completely unconscionable” when the country is seeing a resurgence of Covid-19 cases and the measures would have to be strengthened. He issued seven guidelines for immediate compliance by the airlines and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), and ordered that the matter be registered as suo motu public interest litigation and listed for hearing on March 17.
“It is the duty of each of us to contribute towards this end. Pointing fingers at the central and state governments, who have formidable tasks to deal with, and are doing all they can, is of no use whatsoever. Each of us, as members of a conscious and conscientious citizenry, is required to be sensitive and sensitized in equal measure, and to strain every sinew to keep the pandemic at bay,” Justice Shanker said in the order.
The court in its guidelines directed the DGCA to prominently place on its website the instructions containing guidelines and protocols to be followed by passengers and in-flight crew in domestic flights. The airlines have been directed by the court to provide the passengers written instructions to be followed in the flight and also the measures that could be taken against them in case of failure to follow the protocols.
“The in- flight announcements which, presently, merely require the passengers to wear masks at all times, should be modified to include a cautionary word regarding the penal action that could be taken against them in the event of default,” said one of the guidelines issued by the court.
While asking the in-flight crew to carry out periodical checks of the aircraft to ensure that all passengers are complying with the Covid protocol, the court said any passenger unwilling to follow the protocol prior to the flight taking off should be offloaded without delay.
“If a passenger, despite being reminded more than once in flight, refuses to follow this protocol, action should be taken against the passenger in accordance with the guidelines issued by the DGCA or Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, including placing the passenger on a ‘no-fly’ regimen, either permanently or for a stipulated, sufficiently long, period,” said the court order.
However, the court also said the relaxation if necessary should be allowed only in cases which are truly exceptional such as for medical reasons. “In deserving cases – which should be the exception, not the rule – the airline should take steps to isolate the passenger so that he is kept at a safe distance from other passengers in the flight,” it said.
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