NEW DELHI: Today, in the case of Court on its own motion vs DGCA and ors the High Court directed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation ( DGCA ) to make strict rules and new guidelines for enforceability of mask mandates and COVID protocol at airports and in airplanes.
The Bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta ordered that those air passengers who violate guidelines on wearing masks or those who do not follow proper hand hygiene norms should be put on the no-fly list.
“Norms are seen to not be seriously implemented. Necessary for respondents to ensure implementation on the ground is effective. For this purpose, DGCA should issue separate binding guidelines authorizing staff at airports, flights, captains, pilots, etc to take strict action against passengers and others violating masking and hand-hygiene norms. Such persons should be booked and fined and placed on the no-fly list. In our view, this is essential to be a deterrence for enforcement of such norms. Let report on action taken in this regard be placed on record, list sometime in July” the order stated.
Last Year, Justice C Hari Shankar registered a Suo-Moto Petition in High Court, regarding non-adherence by air passengers to social distancing norms and COVID protocol like wearing masks or keeping hygiene.
The Judge was traveling from Kolkata to New Delhi during his flight he observed when obstinate fellow passengers refused to wear masks properly and adhere to Covid appropriate behavior despite repeated exhortations. The single-judge had then issued guidelines towards mask mandates and pandemic protocol, including considering placing unruly passengers on the no-fly list.
The current Bench effectively sought to make the same binding in today’s order.
Main Counsel for the DGCA submitted that none of the COVID protocol and standards have been diluted and appropriate directions had been issued in compliance with the earlier order. Further, Justice Sanghi said, the problem lay in the implementation of the order.
“Tell staff to implement this strictly and authorize them to take strict action on those not masking. Impose heavy fines,” the Bench remarked.
When another counsel gave the example of how masks can be continuously removed citing excuses like sipping coffee, the Bench remarked that the endeavor is to minimize the risk.
The order stated that the pandemic has not abated and keeps ‘springing up to its ugly head every now and then’, sparing not even the DGCA counsel who had to appear virtually on account of being infected with COVID.
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