Mumbai

Safety of passengers taken care of even if middle seat of aircraft not kept vacant: Bombay HC

For representational purpose only.

For representational purpose only.  

A Division Bench was hearing a petition filed by Air India pilot Deven Kanani who had complained that the national carrier had violated social distancing norms while bringing back Indians stranded abroad on special Vande Bharat flights.

The Bombay High Court on June 15 said safety and health of passengers on flights were adequately being taken care of even if the middle seat of the aircraft was not kept vacant on account of passenger load and seat capacity.

A Division Bench of justices S.J. Kathawalla and S.P. Tavade was hearing a petition filed by Air India pilot Deven Kanani who had complained that the national carrier had violated social distancing norms while bringing back Indians stranded abroad on special Vande Bharat flights.

He had sought enforcement of a clause of the Directorate General of CivilAviation (DGCA) Circular dated March 23, 2020, that read, “seat allocation at the time of check-in to be done in a manner to ensure that the seat between two passengers is kept empty.”

Air India and its subsidiary had previously informed the court that the Circular did not apply to Vande Bharat fights — non-scheduled international fights — and that it applied only to scheduled domestic fights. They also told the court that all precautions required to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were taken while lifting the stranded passengers from abroad and bringing them to India.

An Exert Committee was appointed which consisted of Dr. Pradeep Singh Kharode, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Rajesh Bhusan, OSD, Ministry of Health, Prof. Balram Bhargava, ICMR, Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS and Dr. Naresh Trehan, CMD, Medanta-Medicity.

The committee had said, “face mask worn by two persons in proximity with each other minimises the risk of transmission due to droplets from mouth/nose.”

It had also noted, “if the person sitting inbetween two persons is wearing a protective gear, then the same effect as keeping the seat vacant can be achieved.”

On May 31, DGCA issued fresh directives which included, “All passengers shall be provided with safety kit by airlines,which shall include three layered surgical mask, face shield and adequate sanitiser (sachett/bottle). The airline shall allot the seats in such a manner that the middle seat is kept vacant if the passenger load and seat capacity permit the same.”

The Authority also added, “If the middle seat is occupied due to passenger load, then in addition to the three-layered face mask and face shield, an additional protective equipment like‘wrap around gown’ (Ministry of Textiles) shall be provided to the individual occupying the seat.”

All India Cabin Crew Association had told the Court that they support the DGCA’s circular dated May 31 which was based on the recommendations of the Expert Committee and that they do not support the petitioner’s contention that the middle seat of the aircraft ought to be kept vacant.

In the 50-page judgement, the court remarked, “We are of the prima facie view that the safety and health of passengers on board the aircraft COVID-19 virus is adequately taken care of even if the middle seat of the aircraft is not kept vacant on account of passenger load and seatc apacity. However, fight operators in the country shall, during the air travel of passengers, strictly follow and implement the DGCA order passed on May 31.”

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2020 11:24:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/safety-of-passengers-taken-care-of-even-if-middle-seat-of-aircraft-not-kept-vacant-bombay-hc/article31833081.ece

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