The Delhi High Court on Friday suggested the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to authorize the flight crew and airport staff to take strict action against passengers and other concerned persons not following Covid-19 protocol on flight or at the airport premises.
A Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta stated that Covid-19 pandemic has still not abated and keeps springing up its "ugly head" every now and then and thus, it is absolutely essential to enforce and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, especially in enclosed spaces like aircrafts.
"It is essential for the Respondent to ensure that implementation on ground is effective. For this purpose, DGCA should issue separate binding directions to all airlines to authorize the staff at the airports and in aircrafts including flight persons, captains/ pilots, air hostesses and others to take strict action against passengers and others who violate masking and hand hygiene norms. All persons violating the said norms should be booked and fined and they should be placed on the no-fly list," the Bench ordered.
The development comes in a suo moto case registered by the High Court following the experience of Justice C. Hari Shankar while taking an inland flight. It was noticed that the norms are not being implemented on ground with the seriousness with which they are framed.
Advocate Anjana Gosain, herself infected with Covid-19, had joined the proceedings via video conference to inform the Court that the Ministry of Civil Aviation has issued another order dated May 10, 2022, calling for strict enforcement of Covid-19 protocol. She submitted that the Respondents are seriously implementing the norms with regard to masking at airports and in the aircrafts by all concerned.
However, the Bench orally observed that guidelines are always in place and it is the practical compliance which becomes a problem.
"Guidelines are always there. When it comes to implementation, we falter...Tell your flight crew that we have to implement this and authorize them to take strict action against passengers not doing so. You should have a policy for fining people with heavy fines. Only at the time of meals they can take off the mask; the moment meals are over, they have to keep wearing it. People violating should be physically removed from the area if they have to be...In our view it is essential to into sufficient deterrence to ensure compliance of norms aforesaid," Justice Sanghi said orally.
The Court has now sought a status report and action taken report by the next date of hearing, i.e. 18 July.
Case Title: Court on its own motion v. DGCA & Ors.