Saturday, May 23, 2020

Plea in Bombay high court for middle seat vacant norm; Air India says rule withdrawn

Mumbai: In a day of drama in a virtual proceeding, Bombay high court first directed Air India to keep middle seats vacant as the Director General of Civil Aviation had instructed in its March 23 "social distancing" circular, and later in the evening, the airline informed HC that the ministry has withdrawn that requirement through a fresh circular issued on Friday.
DGCA announced recommencement of domestic operations from May 25 with fresh guidelines, and said its earlier March 23 guidelines "stand superseded with immediate effect". On May 25, when domestic flights restart, middle seats will not be left vacant.
An HC bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and Abhay Ahuja modified its order by removing the interim direction to keep middle seats vacant but granted liberty to the petitioner, an Air India pilot, to amend his petition and challenge the new circular.

The petition by Air India pilot Deven Kanani (51) had sought enforcement of the March 23 circular saying the airline was not complying with it. His counsel Abhilash Panickar said social distancing is the only preventive norm as prescribed by WHO and accepted by the health ministry. He argued the circular requiring a vacant middle seat was binding on the airline. Air India counsel Abhinav Chandrachud argued it was operating non-scheduled flights and theirs was an extraordinary operation to repatriate lakhs, hence it was not binding.
23/05/20 Swati Deshgupta/Times of India
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