Offload passengers not wearing Masks on flights: Delhi High Court

Kashish Jain

The Delhi High Court has taken cognizance of the alarming situation wherein passengers fail to take proper precautions and not wear masks in flights.

The Court has issued guidelines to all domestic airlines and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for strict adherence to precautionary methods. The notice also provides for penal action against the offenders of such rules and periodical checking of the aircraft for enforcing the same.

Justice C Hari Shankar witnessed passengers not wearing masks properly during transportation from airport to the flight. He also witnessed their stubborn reluctance to wear their masks properly and took suo moto cognisance of the situation. He then issued guidelines for immediate compliance,

The High Court felt complied to mention that it was constrained to pass the order because of an alarming situation witnessed by the judge himself during the Air India flight from Kolkata to New Delhi. He said-

“This Behaviour was seen not only in the bus transporting the passengers from the airport to the flight but also within the flight itself. It was only on repeated entries made (by me) to the offending passengers that the condescended to wear their masks properly. On the cabin crew being questioned in this regard, they stated that they had directed all passengers to wear masks, but were helpless in the case they did not comply”

The Court believed that in a situation where the country witnesses a resurgence of COVID019 cases after it had showing signs of ebbing, this behaviour was completely unconscionable. It made it a point to comment that Passengers in a flight are already in a closed air conditioned environment and if one passenger is suffering from the illness, the effect on others would be catastrophic. The guidelines framed by the court in this regard are to come into effect immediately and are for strict compliance which will be ensured by the Cabin crew. The crew is to carry our periodical checks especially with respect to the wearing of masks. The Court also made clear that the masks should be worn according to the State’s instructions i.e. covering the nose and the mouths and not just the chin. If any passenger refuses to comply with the protocols he or she would be offloaded without delay.

Actions against such people would be in accordance to the guideline issued by the DGCA or the Ministry of Health and Family welfare. These could include placing such persons on the no-fly regimen, either permanently or for a short duration of time (long enough to be a punishment).

The DGCA is to prominently reflect on its website the instructions that contain the rules and regulations in this regard to be followed by passenger and in flight crew in domestic flights.

The court also said:

“In order to ensure compliance, the DGCA may consider sending random observers on flights, without prior information, who would check to ensure that the COVID-19 protocols are followed in flight”

“Strict enforcement of all penal provisions, which could visit delinquent passengers who refuse to abide by the COVID protocols to be maintained in flight, should be ensured. There should be no relaxation whatsoever in that regard,” the order stated.

The Court also took cognizance of the fact that the DGCA also allows for passengers some relaxation for not wearing the masks and stated that this should be allowed only after evaluating the necessity of travel.

The authorities are to adequate publicity to these guidelines and airlines who fail to comply will face penal action. The court stated that the matter be registered as a suo moto PIL and listed before appropriate bench dealing with PILs. It has also asked for the DGCA and the Air India to file their reports before the bench regarding compliance with the guidelines.

The Court also issued clarifications that it did not mean to criticise the efforts made by the Government but only means to strengthen their effect.

Read more: Supreme Court states that not wearing of masks violates Right to Life